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. Games for both are now 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 need to be finished no later than Nov. 28.
"We are really excited to get back and provide the guys a safe and fun experience for this year. It provides some unique challenges, but I am very happy our seniors get to experience fall football. Spring football from the get-go would have been extremely difficult to do for most schools. Our players have worked very hard this summer and fall and have kept a great attitude, and I am excited for them to have games to showcase their hard work," said BPHS Football Coach Joe Joyce.
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, beginning Oct. 8.
BPHS Volleyball Coach Richard Foust said, "We were able to practice twice last week. We discussed the importance of doing things safely both at practice and outside of practice. All of us (players and coaches) were excited to have the opportunity to play this fall and were hopeful as the debate/discussion continued through Monday morning. We understand the concern, but as long as athletes practice safely inside and outside of the gym, I think we can make this fall season work. Last week during practice, girls wore their masks the entire time. Sometimes during scrimmaging they had to lower their masks to catch their breath, but otherwise, we had 100% compliance of wearing masks at all times. The next few days will be spent finalizing what practices will look like and setting up opponents for competitions and relaying the importance of doing things in a safe way! We will try to videotape all matches so that parents and fans can still watch at home and be with the team in spirit. We usually have a great following of fans, including our student cheering section and community members, so it will be different playing in a gym without fan noise. The home court advantage may be equalized this year."
There is much support for restarting both seasons. 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.”
Tigers Activities Director John Bergs was ready to get the ball in motion shortly after Monday’s decision, indicating that there had been some preliminary discussions about guidelines and schedules, but work was set to begin in full by Monday afternoon. Bergs indicated that the activities will follow all the guidance set forth by the MSHSL in connection with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
The Tigers volleyball team finished 24-10 a season ago, won the Section 2AA championship and defeated Concordia Academy 3-2 to earn third place at the state tournament.
The Tigers football team finished 3-6, falling to Providence Academy in the Section 2AAA opener, 35-16.
Fall Sports Post-Season
The board also discussed options for a post-season for fall sports.
The recommendations included the following:
• 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.