Michigan high school football playoffs will resume on Jan. 2

David Goricki
The Detroit News
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The three Michigan high school fall sports seasons put on hold will be allowed to resume practice on Monday, and their seasons will be concluded on January, the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced Friday.

Football, volleyball and girls swimming will be able to conclude their state tournaments as part of a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services pilot rapid testing program designed to collect data on the spread of COVID-19.

The MDHHS will provide expanded rapid testing availability to schools in January.

Detroit Cass Tech was scheduled to play Belleville in a Division 1 regional before the football season was put on hold.

No spectators will be allowed at any of the events.

Here is a schedule for each sport:

►The football playoffs will resume Saturday, Jan. 2 with the regionals, with semifinals the following Saturday, Jan. 9. The regionals and semifnials will be at the home teams' fields. The state finals will be Jan. 15-16 likely at Ford Field, though the MHSAA said the site will be announced later.

More: Michigan high school football playoffs schedule: Regionals

► The volleyball tournament will restart with quarterfinals on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Semifinals and finals will be Jan. 7-9 at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

►The girls swimming finals will be Jan. 15-16 with one division at each of three locations -- Division 1 at Hudsonville, Division 2 at Grand Rapids Northview and Division 3 at Lake Orion.

“This is going to allow kids to have some closures on their fall seasons,” MHSAA director Mark Uyl said Friday.

“Part of the testing program that’s required is there will be a rapid test that will get to schools here shortly. We’re still working through some of the details on how the exact process will work. A lot of the information that we’re going to be able to collect through this pilot program over the next roughly four weeks is going to be able to help schools open in January and hopefully stay open.”

Uyl said all of the testing will be funded by the MDHHS.

Belleville coach Jermain Crowell was on the phone with West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy, talking about their plans to travel to Arizona for trips with family and friends, when they learned that football season was back on.

“Is this true?” said Crowell, adding he had planned on visiting relatives in Arizona during the holidays.

Crowell tested positive for COVID-19 back on Nov. 20, meaning No. 1 Belleville’s regional final against No. 2 Detroit Cass Tech would have been called off. However, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put a three-week hold on the season at that time, then added another 12-day pause, which means coaches haven’t met with their players in five weeks.

District championship games were back on Nov. 13-14.

“My wife just texted me and said, ‘Did you check the flights for Arizona?’” said Bellamy, who was going to spend some time with his friend Drew Stanton, former Michigan State and NFL quarterback.

“We’re just trying to find out the logistics right now," Bellamy said. "I’m trying to talk to trainers and doctors on what is the best way to get kids to climatize to 20- or 30-degree temperatures so we can base our schedule off of that. I mean, do you just condition indoors? You can’t practice for two weeks, every day, outdoors for two and a half hours.”

“You’re going to have to ease them back into it; most of the first week will be conditioning,” Crowell said of his players. “What are the weather conditions going to be like? Wow! We’re going to have to find an indoor facility to practice, at least at the beginning."

Many area football players who signed with colleges this week will be enrolling early.

“How many will be gone? I don’t know,” Bellamy said. “I know Donovan Edwards doesn’t have to be at Michigan until mid-January and he plans to ask Coach Harbaugh, ‘Are you good with me playing?’ I’m sure he wants him to continue to play football, but that’s a question that’s needs to be asked.”

Now Belleville and Cass Tech will have their showdown game on Jan. 2, as will No. 4 West Bloomfield vs. Romeo. 

Brendan Sullivan led Davison to the Division 1 state championship last season, completing 14-of-19 passes for 290 yards and a TD while also rushing for 40 yards and a pair of scores in a 35-25 win over Brighton at Ford Field.

Sullivan, who signed with Northwestern Wednesday, won’t be making a repeat performance.

Davison coach Jacob Weingartz said Sullivan will be on the field when No. 5 Davison plays host to No. 14 Detroit Catholic Central in a regional title game Jan. 2 and possibly, if Davison wins, a state semifinal game Jan. 9, but certainly not the state title game.

“He has to start classes on the 15th so he’ll be able to play against CC for sure and they might make an exception to allow him to play in the semifinal game, but no matter we wouldn’t have him for the state championship game,” said Weingartz of Sullivan, who threw for 1,012 yards and 10 TD this season, also rushing for 282 yards and 7 TDs.

All indoor winter sports (which are not part of the pilot rapid testing program) remain on pause until Jan. 16, except for alpine skiing, an outdoor sport. Skiing can resume practice on Monday.

The Representative Council of the MHSAA will meet on Tuesday to discuss details for the other winter sports, including boys and girls basketball.

“We’re continuing to advocate for our winter athletes,” Uyl said. “What you’ve heard us say now for weeks, that not only were we able to play this fall, but we were able to play safely, and we were also hoping that winter could get restarted with practices as soon as possible with competitions to follow.

“Of course as it relates to winter sports, we’re all waiting for the new order to expire on January 15th and it’s our hope and plan that practices can begin soon after.”

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