BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Longtime head coach Kurt Richardson’s phone was blowing up when Clarkston Varsity Football players received the news last Thursday the fall season was back on after being reinstated by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
“They are excited,” he shared, adding the players were always positive. “Even when they thought we weren’t going to be having a season, our kids were up. They were having fun. Their spirits were high. They have handled it very well.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-176 which lifted restrictions which previously did not allow football to be played.
The executive order also allowed for the immediate start for boys soccer to begin competing while girls swim and dive and volleyball is allowed to begin on Wednesday, Sept. 9, for schools located in Regions 1-5 and 7.
“Obviously I am very happy not just for football but for all the kids,” Richardson said. “Kids need athletics. It’s a great thing they made that decision. Now the challenge is we have to do it right. We have to make sure the kids abide by all the rules and they don’t do dumb stuff during the weekends because we only have one chance at this.”
“It’s what we were looking for,” said Clarkston Athletics Director Jeff Kosin. “You can’t put into words how you feel for the kids and the coaches – just an opportunity for them to participate in something they enjoy to do. It’s above and beyond fantastic, it really is.”
He added they are going to continue to follow procedures so they don’t take any steps backwards.
“As of right now, we will continue to do what we need to do to be successful – that’s following orders from the government and from the MHSAA. It’s a positive thing for everyone,” Kosin said.
MHSAA had postponed the fall football season to Spring 2021, on Aug. 14. They voted last Thursday to allow for a shortened season.
This week football will practice for two days in helmets and shoulder pads on Tuesday and Wednesday. They can add full pads on Thursday, Sept. 10.
They are allowed to begin regular-season games on Friday, Sept. 18 and will play six games. MHSAA added all football teams qualify for the playoffs during this fall’s shortened season.
Kosin added the MHSAA suggested teams start with their Week 4 schedule.
“We are going to try to do that,” he said, adding they have just have to verify with other districts to verify they are playing. “There are some schools like Ferndale that cancelled all their fall sports and now there might be talk of them opening all their fall sports up.”
Football teams advance through their usual postseason progression with 8-Player Finals the weekend of Nov. 27-28 and 11-Player Finals the weekend of Dec. 4-5. Tournaments for the other sports will go on as previously scheduled.
Kosin added cheer will be at football games while marching band and dance at this time will not be at games.
“I give cheer a lot of credit,” he said. “When the verdict came down on Aug. 14 we couldn’t play football, our varsity coach said ‘Jeff, is there a possibility for us to cheer at a soccer game or volleyball. Whatever we can do. We want to support the student-athletes.’ It was awesome.'”
Kosin noted not only will football games look different but all competitions will as there are only two spectators allowed per athlete.
“This is a recommendation we have from the MHSAA and from the executive order,” he said. “It’s the two-by- two rule. Every participant is allowed two parents or guardians to come in.”
Kosin added the plan is to start middle school sports on Wednesday for seventh and eighth graders in girls basketball, boys and girls cross country, and football.
For high school sports, Clarkston will have cheerleading, dance, field hockey, football, boys soccer, girls swim and dive and volleyball.
Boys tennis and girls golf have been competing. The Clarkston Boys and Girls Cross Country teams have their first meet this Friday.
MHSAA explained in their release schools are not required to play any of the sports this fall, and may postpone until the spring. However, the MHSAA will conduct its postseason events in those four sports only for the Fall 2020 season.
“We are thankful for the opportunity for kids to get back on the field in all fall sports, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer providing that opportunity with Executive Order 176 ,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “We share the Governor’s priorities of putting health and safety first, and the COVID-19 guidance and protocols designed by the MHSAA at her request have led to the safe starts in all sports across the state. Thirty-three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible. We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy. Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition and socialization.”
“We focus on safety and security of our athletes – that’s our top priority,” Kosin said. “Everything we do is with the kids’ best interests in mind and that’s our coaches and everything. This is the news we have been waiting for. This is why I do what I do in athletics, to support our kids and watch our kids do their activity and have them compete.”
BY WENDI REARDON PRICE