Football: Football might make a return to fall
A push to possibly return high school football back to the fall has many coaches revamping their timelines, practice schedules and thoughts about the prospect of playing in a couple of weeks as opposed to the spring.
It’s a full-on blitz to bring high school football back to the fall.
But as Hank Williams Jr. used to ask most fall Monday nights, “Are you ready for some football” is a good question for area head coaches.
After states like Michigan and Colorado reversed decisions earlier this month to move football to the spring and brought the sport back to this fall, a groundswell of Minnesota families and coaches have pushed the Minnesota State High School League to do the same.
The MSHSL announced Tuesday, Aug. 4, that fall sports like boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving will go as scheduled this fall while football and volleyball would be moved to spring because of concerns over COVID-19.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, parents and athletes rallied outside Gov. Tim Walz’s residence in St. Paul with the rallying cry “Give us the Ball. Let’s play this fall.”
A meeting between the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and the MSHSL was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 15. The meeting was to occur during an MSHSL workshop.
“That’s the great mystery right now,” Brainerd head coach Jason Freed said. “From what I hear, we’ll know more this week. I’m a super flexible person so I’ll be ready for it. Right now we have a plan for spring and we are currently executing that plan.
“We start fall practices this week and we have fall practices scheduled through Oct. 2 so we’re currently in that frame of mind, but if we’re forced to switch that and start to put together a fall football plan, we’ll move forward with that.”
Freed said he believes there are pros and cons to both scenarios, but said many logistical aspects of bringing football back to the fall would need to be answered quickly.
Freed questioned what would happen if there’s a large outbreak and some teams might have to have an even shorter season.
But he and other coaches worry about what the weather might be like come April and the new spring season.
“With everything that they’re saying with medical data saying there is no more at-risk now then there would be in the spring then for sure the fall would be a better time to have football than the spring,” Pierz activities director and assistant football coach Dave Rocheleau said. “The fields are frozen in April and even if you do get out on the fields, the first time you’re on them you’re going to tear them up until there is no grass any more.”
One benefit to this push for fall football is that most programs are starting fall practice Monday, Sept. 14. That was a stipulation added to the MSHSL’s decision when it moved football to the spring.
Pierz was going to do a lighter three-day a week practice with Mondays and Fridays off. With the possibility of a fall season, those plans have changed.
Rocheleau believes the Pioneers would be ready to go in two weeks.
One major question for this push for fall football is whether it includes fall volleyball. The reason for volleyball’s move was the fear of bringing people inside schools.
Rocheleau wasn’t sure what the plan for volleyball would be or if it would change.
An online petition to the MSHSL has gained 14,263 signatures as of 2:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14.
Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen thinks it’s getting to be too late to think about fall football unless they allow games to start Sept. 26.
“If they let us count this week and then play on Sept. 26 after two weeks of practice instead of having that scrimmage,” Mahlen said. “Then it might be feasible if they let us do that. In my opinion, if they let us do that, if we’re going to start later we’re going to have to have the state quarterfinals inside of a dome, which means we play at the Fargodome or Alerus Center or in South Dakota and Iowa. It’s going to be really cold. I don’t know if it’s feasible or not.
“If we rush to get a season in with no playoffs, I don’t want that.”
Mahlen brought up a scenario that maybe teams play four games this fall, push the start of the spring season back into later April and have four games in the spring and then playoffs.
Verndale doesn’t have any fall sports for boys. Other schools just have cross country, which some football players went out for to stay in shape. Brainerd and Little Falls do have boys soccer for the fall.
Whatever happens, Freed believes flexibility is the key.
“Ultimately it’s about being prepared and really being flexible,” Freed said. “That's the biggest thing right now, I think. People have to be flexible. If we’ve learned anything in the last five or six months is that nothing seems to be set in stone so you have to move with the ebbs and flows of what’s going on.
“I am optimistic. Whether we stick with the plan and play in the spring or move to the fall. I get there will be hurdles that we’ll have to overcome, but I am way more optimistic now that, however it looks, we will have a season whether it’s spring or fall.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.