Michigan high school sports remain on hold; MHSAA still wants to finish fall seasons

David Goricki
The Detroit News

High school sports will remain on hold through at least Dec. 20, as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended a statewide partial shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The partial shutdown was scheduled to expire Tuesday.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association was attempting to complete its fall sports with championships in football, volleyball and girls swimming by the end of the month.

Davion Primm (2) and the Oak Park football teams will have to wait to resume its playoff run.

The MHSAA said its Representative Council would meet Wednesday to decide its next course of action, adding that it still hopes to conclude the football, volleyball and girls swimming seasons with state championship events.

“We realize the crisis our medical caregivers and first responders are navigating and understand the need to continue the pause," MHSAA director Mark Uyl said in a written statement. "However, the MHSAA had provided a detailed plan to both Governor Whitmer and MDHHS that would have completed fall tournaments with no spectators as safely as possible during the month of December along with allowing winter sport practices to resume.  While we are disappointed in today’s announcement, we will continue to look forward as we remain committed to play three sports seasons to their conclusion. The MHSAA Representative Council will meet on Wednesday of this week to chart out another plan for finishing Fall and restarting Winter.”

Football is in the regional round of its postseason.

Whitmer halted the high school fall sports season for at least three weeks on Nov. 18, as part of wide-ranging new restrictions announced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MHSAA scheduled regional football games on Dec. 15-16 with state semifinals on Dec. 21-22 and title games on Dec. 28-29. Now the earliest regionals could be played is after Christmas with semifinal games pushed to January.

Now multiple area coaches think it’s time to pull the plug on the football season.

“Just call it a season, it’s OK, basketball did it, just call it a season,” said West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy, recalling how the boys basketball season came to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic just prior to district title games in mid-March. “It’s not the MHSAA’s fault. They did a phenomenal job trying to (save the season). But the health department didn’t deem it safe enough and we live with that. It’s not the end of the world.

Ron Bellamy

“Everyone is like, ‘You can wait until spring to play,’ and my rebuttal to that is, it’s not the same football team when Donovan Edwards (four-star running back) and Maxwell Hairston (cornerback, Kentucky) and Gavin Hardeman (safety, Air Force), who did well academically to put themselves in position to where they could leave high school early (in January), now you’re playing against teams whose kids don’t leave or can’t leave until summer. It’s not fair because it’s not our football team.”

Detroit Cass Tech – ranked No. 2 in the state by The Detroit News – was supposed to play at No. 1 Belleville in a regional final on Nov. 20, but the game was postponed due to the first sports pause.

The Cass Tech-Belleville showdown wouldn’t have been played then anyway since Belleville coach Jermain Crowell had just tested positive for COVID.

Crowell said he went through “four days of hell” with the virus. He’s in favor of waiting until spring to conclude the season. “If we wait it will be warmer. We will actually have practice time, plus the vaccine will be out. It makes more sense.”

Crowell also stands to lose his best players as early enrollees in college, including two-way lineman Damon Payne (Alabama), linebacker Jamari Buddin (Penn State) and receiver Deion Burks (Purdue).

Cass Tech longtime head coach Thomas Wilcher stayed in contact with Crowell during his fight with COVID. Crowell was defensive coordinator at Cass Tech during consecutive Division 1 state championships years in 2011 and 2012.

Thomas Wilcher

“I think it’s probably the best thing to do, shut it down, there’s not much time with the cold weather, all the kids are going to do is get sick, so I wouldn’t advocate it,” Wilcher told The News. “There’s no way you can ask somebody to play a football game and not work out for a month. It’s not going to happen. I just don’t see it happening, so let’s call it a wrap.

“I look at it like this – at least they had a chance to play (nine games) and that’s what’s important. I’m not going to be upset about it. After all, this is all about preserving life, making sure everyone is healthy so they’re going about it the right way.”

Michigan-bound center Raheem Anderson plans to start college in mid-January and would love to keep playing. He is among a handful of Cass Tech players planning on starting college next month.

“Honestly, in my opinion, with how the cases are going I don’t think they’ll bring (the season) back,” Anderson told The News. “I understand what the Governor is doing. I’m happy we played nine games, got a lot of wins, but wanted to finish what we started.”