New state restrictions put Michigan high school postseason, winter sports, on hold

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has halted the high school fall sports season for at least three weeks, as part of wide-ranging new restrictions announced Sunday in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fall tournaments involving girls swimming and diving, volleyball and football have been suspended until at least Dec. 8, "effective immediately," according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

West Bloomfield's playoff run is on hold because of new restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volleyball and swimming and diving are in the final week of their postseason, while football has three weeks remaining.

“We understand the need for action, and we will explore all options to complete our fall tournaments when restrictions are lifted," MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a statement. "We will assess everything over the next three weeks relative to fall and winter sports and come up with a plan that keeps us connected to our goal, for months, of having three seasons that are played to their conclusions.”

West Bloomfield — 8-1 and ranked No. 4 in The News Super 20 poll — was among teams throughout the state that went home with district title trophies this past weekend and were looking to bring home more hardware with regional championships scheduled for next weekend. 

That now must wait.

The state semifinals were scheduled for Nov. 27-28, and state title games Dec. 4-5 at Ford Field.

Girls basketball practice started this past Monday, and boys basketball practice was supposed to start Monday before Whitmer’s announcement.

“The kids understand, we’ve been talking about this since football started back in September, told them to enjoy every moment of the game because you don’t know when the game is going to be taken away again,” West Bloomfield head coach Ron Bellamy said Sunday evening, not knowing if the season would be brought back in early December with inclement weather.

“We’re fortunate that we got nine games in and were able to win a district championship. I’m most happy for the seniors, you know guys that didn’t get a chance to play a lot as sophomores and juniors, they got nine games worth of film in and we’re going to take that and make sure these guys get a chance to go to college.”

Multiple players have enjoyed great seasons, including Belleville senior quarterback Christian Dhue-Reid and Livonia Stevenson running back Caden Woodall, who rushed for 2,203 yards and 34 touchdowns, becoming the first player to average 275 rushing yards a game in 60 years.

Dhue-Reid completed 71% of his passes for 2,261 yards and 37 TDs with just one interception to lead his team to a No. 1 ranking, 9-0 season, including a 53-29 Division 1 district title win over Canton on Friday. He walks away with a state record for career TD passes (132).

A highly hyped showdown between No. 2 Detroit Cass Tech and No. 1 Belleville, which would have taken place this Friday with a regional title at stake, will have to wait.

“We were just going through walk-throughs, just going through walk-throughs … Wow,” Belleville head coach Jermain Crowell said. “Really, all of this was a gift, though. Our seniors got a chance to play their senior years, win a district title and go 9-0. Christian had the chance to get the record, I’m thrilled for him.

“But, still no Cass Tech-Belleville game. This has been such a hyped-up game. Everyone has been looking forward to it. We’re such a close-knit family; I’ve had such a history with Cass Tech (as team’s defensive coordinator in state title years of 2011 and ’12). It was such a big game for (Detroit) Central too since (Cass Tech Coach) Thomas Wilcher and I played under Woody Thomas there, and were able to generate such a buzz for this game. Wilcher was an assistant at Central, coached me during my senior year. We understand though. We understand, it’s just tough, but we all have to stay safe.”

More: UM, MSU football can play on with no spectators during new order

Oak Park, which went winless (0-6) during the regular season, won a Division 2 district title with a 27-14 win at Wyandotte Friday night. The MHSAA allowed all schools to participate in postseason for the first time with the pandemic in play.

History would have been made one way or another Saturday when Oak Park was set to play at Livonia Churchill. Both teams are looking for its first regional championship in program history.

“Maybe (Whitmer) will start it back up if things get a little better," Oak Park coach Greg Carter said. "If we play again, we’ll be playing in snowshoes. We got nine games in so that’s better than nothing.

“I’m glad the kids got a chance to play nine games, and if we pushed it back to spring the best players in the state wouldn’t have played so you have to be happy we had the chance to see the state’s top players.”

Romeo, which started the season 1-4, would have been in search of yet another upset win. After a 15-14 district semifinal win over No. 9 Macomb Dakota, Romeo put on its best performance of the season with an impressive 45-27 win over No. 12 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek to push its record to 5-4, forcing six turnovers with 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end Michael Heldman (Grand Valley) leading the way with five TFL, including three sacks and a strip sack which led to a 55-yard fumble TD return by Anthony Lomakoski.

“It would be unfortunate if that is the case, but it isn’t something we can control,” Romeo coach Curt Reinas said of the news. “What got us to the point that we are at, is to not focus on outside distractions, just focus on what we can control with effort and attitude, but as much as we like to control our things in life we can’t.

“I’m really proud of our kids and community since this has been an extremely difficult season. We lost a lot of kids in those first couple of weeks to injuries and to kind of claw your way back and have some redemption these last few weeks has been good. I even think back of how fortunate we are that the state went with the format that everybody gets to be in the playoffs. Otherwise we wouldn’t have had the last couple of weeks experiences so we’re grateful for that.”

Romeo was scheduled to play at West Bloomfield, which had outscored its opponents by a 271-9 during the last six games.

“You know for me, I always think about what could happen and it is nerve-wracking, there’s a lot of sleepless nights,” Bellamy said. “You’re worried more about COVID protocols than the game planning at times. For me, the weather is changing, and I think the most important thing is that we’re healthy.

“Football is not who we are, it’s what we do, it’s just a game at the end of the day. I appreciate Mark Uyl and the MHSAA for giving us the opportunity to play. It’s a sad day, but we understand the circumstances, that this is much bigger than football.”

Birmingham Marian volleyball tossed aside a pair of regular-season losses to defending Division 1 state champion and No. 1 Farmington Hills Mercy with a five-set win in the Catholic League finals last month, then proved it wasn’t a fluke by sending Mercy to the sidelines with a another five-set victory in last Thursday’s regional championship match, 25-20, 19-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-11.

Marian, 35-5 and ranked No. 2, was to move on to Tuesday night’s 7:30 p.m. state quarterfinal against Macomb Dakota at St. Clair County Community College Fieldhouse. That, too, is on hold.

“I was hoping we’d get our quarterfinal match in at least,” Marian coach Mayssa Cook said. “I had a feeling we’d might go backwards, but I didn’t think it would be a complete shutdown. I was expecting maybe no spectators and just the teams and then they could just stream the match. I figured if they’d just have 30 kids in a big gym the risk would be so low.

“We made a pact more than a month ago where all of us would stay within our own team, within our own families and the kids have said no to parties, they’ve said no to gatherings and we haven’t had a single positive case. This is so sad to hear.”

In other Division 1 state quarterfinals, Clarkston was to play Grand Blanc at Lapeer, Novi was to face Ann Arbor Skyline at Ypsilanti Lincoln and Lowell is scheduled to play Portage Central at Gull Lake.

State semifinals for Division 2 and 3 were set to be held Thursday at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek with Division 1 and 4 semifinals set for Friday at Kellogg Arena with all four title matches held at the same site Saturday.