The Friday night lights will shine again this fall after all. The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors on Monday, Sept. 21 reversed an earlier decision to postpone the football and volleyball sports seasons to the spring, and games for both are scheduled to begin in October.
The board voted 15-3 to reinstate football this fall, starting Sept. 28, albeit with a shortened season. The schedule will allow for six games, starting Oct. 9, with a two-week playoff season that will start the week of Nov. 16.
The board also voted 14-4 to move volleyball back to the fall, starting Sept. 28. Teams will be allowed to play 14 games over 11 weeks, starting Oct. 8. Two weeks of postseason play have been approved, starting the week of Nov. 30.
“The Minnesota State High School League continues to work to provide educational opportunities for our student athletes in the safest manner possible for all involved,” said Board of Directors President Blaine Novak of New York Mills. “Coming into the meeting, we knew that every decision we make affects every other decision for the rest of the calendar year. Today’s decision, based on what we currently know and with the unknowns of what spring will bring, is based on the belief that playing now provides us the best opportunity to play a football and volleyball season.”
There is much support for restarting both seasons, as a recent MSHSL survey of 394 member schools found that 80 percent wanted football to resume, and 76 percent favored a return of volleyball as well.
“The decisions by our Board of Directors both provide opportunities for many student athletes and also require everyone’s responsible actions in keeping students and communities safe,” League Executive Director Erich Martens said. “It will be critical that our schools do their very best to enact protocols that maximize the safety of our students, coaches and officials.”
According to Le Sueur-Henderson volleyball coach Stacey Feser, her volleyball team will be preparing to play games this fall.
“We are working out what that will look like, but we are moving forward with planning,” Feser said.
Le Sueur-Henderson Athletics and Activities Director Jeff Christ said practice for high school teams will be starting Sept. 28, and competition will start in October as outlined by the MSHSL guidelines.
No fans will be allowed at the volleyball games, and a maximum of 250 people will be allowed at the football games.
Christ said many parts are still being finalized, including schedules, junior high seasons, tickets available to home and away games, locker room protocols and practice protocols to keep pod sizes at 25 people or less.
A district football meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 22, and schedules are expected to be finalized by Wednesday, Sept. 23.
Keep an eye on the Henderson Independent for more information as it becomes available.
The decision will have a ripple effect on Le Sueur-Henderson’s other fall sports teams. The good news for the Giants tennis team is that a majority of the undefeated varsity team is returning dedicated tennis players, including all four singles players.
"This will not have a major impact since the seasons will only overlap by a few weeks," Giants tennis coach Linda Seaver said. "But it will have some effect because those players who were brave enough to take on a new sport may have to miss some practices or put in double time to juggle both. It is too bad that some kids are being put in this position."
However, senior Halle Bemmels has enjoyed some varsity action, including a recent pairing with Darbi Dunning at #2 doubles. Bemmels was one of the athletes who joined the team this year when volleyball was not being offered.
Halle Bemmels has been a major contributor to our team camaraderie, practices and matches," Seaver said.
However, the volleyball court is where Bemmels really shines. She received MRC All-Conference honors last year, and honorable mention the previous two years. Bemmels also hit a personal milestone of 2,000 career set assists midway through the 2019 season, and was a key part of the team that went on to be South Sub-Section Champions that year.
On the other hand, the MSHSL decision could heavily impact Don Marcussen’s cross country teams, especially the boys team, which is in a rebuilding year.
The boys cross country team stands to lose Dylan Novak and Cayden Luna to football. Novak has been a solid third runner for the Giants so far this season, while Luna has been the sixth runner for Marcussen.
On the girls side, Olivia Fritz and Lauren Menne came to the team from volleyball, and both have experienced varsity action this year. Menne has primarily run at JV so far this year, but stepped up and ran her first varsity race last Thursday to fill in for an injured teammate.
Marcussen said he spoke with LS-H football coach Mike May about the cross-over impact, and will be having a sit-down conversation with the effected students to discuss what they will be doing.
The board also discussed options for a post-season for fall sports.
The recommendations included:
• A section tournament and champion for tennis.
• Section tournaments for cross country for varsity only the week of Oct. 12. Teams will be limited to six runners, and a maximum of four teams running at once.
• Section tournament for swimming/diving the week of Oct. 19, with four teams allowed in one pool, and four entries per event per team.
The board did not formally approve the recommendations, but will be meeting again on Oct. 1.