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Local coaches react to spring high school football in the UP

(Matt McCarthy/Daily News photo) Iron Mountain head coach Robin Marttila holds the lineman chute as players run through during practice on Aug. 11 at Mountaineer Stadium. Assistant coach Scott Jauquet, wearing a mask, observes the drill.

By MATT “SWEETS” McCARTHY

Sports Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN — The Michigan High School Athletic Association’s announcement on Friday of high school football in the state being shifted to the spring sports season has caused some negative reaction and feedback.

There were many unanswered questions, due to the fact that the announcement itself was fairly vague in nature.

The main concern it seems most coaches and administrators have is how feasible is it to think that with the long U.P. winters, how the MHSAA plans to have football season in the spring, basically from the mid Lower Peninsula, north and the entirety of the U.P.

“I am not optimistic at all with the possibility of spring football in the U.P.,” said North Dickinson athletic director Mike Roell. “Our field at North Dickinson is still soft and squishy until mid to late May. We’ve hosted track meets in May, where it was cold enough to and it did snow. So the fields being ready any earlier than then, in most places in the U.P. is not going to happen in my opinion.”

Roell went on to add that the safety precautions that the MHSAA is potentially going to implement for volleyball, are not going to be desireable for the site game managers and athletic directors.

“There’s potentially going to be a cap on crowd sizes, and a requirement for someone to police the maintaining of social distancing.”

Volleyball state wide, and girls swimming and diving in the Lower Peninsula, will have a separate set of challenges, due to those being indoor sports. The MHSAA plans to release a statement on Wednesday in regards to several items pertaining to fall sports, in particular the COVID-19 guidelines for the two indoor sports.

The MHSAA’s announcement is also expected to include the guidelines for high school football teams within the state, as far as what the teams can specifically do or not do in regards to organized or non-organized team activities to keep the football players in shape and together as a team over the course of the next few months until they can compete.

“The news that came out on Friday was disheartening to say the least. My players are extremely disappointed and they have a lot of questions,” said West Iron County head football coach Mike Berutti. “It is hard to imagine a fall without football.”

Berutti, who is the Wykons athletic director as well, noted that the sports that are allowed to play and have their seasons, will have modified schedules. For instance, volleyball and girls tennis will cut down the amount of teams invited to a meet, or in some cases eliminate them from the schedule all together.

Iron Mountain head coach Robin Marttila spoke to his players at a team meeting Monday morning, in regards to the postponement.

“We have to focus on things we can control, instead of things that are happening around us that we can’t control,” Marttila said he told his players.

“I told them that I was informing them of this with disappointment and sadness on the postponement until spring. What it will look like, is beyond me, because it’s something new, someplace we’ve never been,” said Marttila.

Marttila also noted that at times like this it’s best to focus on family, friends and staying healthy.

Also expected to be explained and mapped out by the MHSAA, is when the spring football season will take place. As well as how and if boys will be eligible to play multiple spring sports. The MHSAA plans to stagger the start of football to be a different time frame and start date than the traditional spring sports, in an attempt to have minimal overlap of the seasons.

“The safety of the student athlete is the number one priority for everyone involved with this situation,” Marttila said.

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