Johnston surprised grid season starting in March
When the announcement came on Tuesday that the Minnesota State High School League's Board of Directors voted to move the football season to the spring, Minneota coach Chad Johnston admitted he was a little surprised.
"A week ago they came out with an announcement that they had four scenarios that they were considering and not one of them was to switch things to the spring," he said. "I knew that we would most likely have a shortened season, but I really thought it was going to be this fall."
Johnston, also the head girls basketball coach, experienced a previous disappointment in 2020 when the MSHSL cancelled the final two games of the state tournament amid the pandemic.
"Having a shortened season and a season in the spring is better than not having a season at all," he said. "But we are still not guaranteed anything. If things were to get worse between now and then, the season could potentially still get cancelled."
The MSHSL tentatively set the football and volleyball season to begin March 15 and extend to May 15, with spring sports then being held from May 15 to July 15.
"I wasn’t really surprised about football and volleyball being moved to the spring because it is 2020 and this year has been completely out of whack," said senior co-captain Joey Rybinski.
Moving fall sports to the spring poses other problems. Blizzards, high winds and frigid temperatures are not unusual in March. And if the state has large amounts of snowfall this winter followed by unseasonably warm weather in March, the fields will be flooded and deemed unplayable.
"I agree with their plan to move it to the spring because if it was in the fall we most likely would of had a shortened season and in the spring we could possibly have a full season," Rybinski said. "I do think it will still be wet in the spring so that will have its own challenges."
"There is also the topic of whether the season will include any type of playoffs or a state tournament," Johnston said. "Will the kids be fine with just having a season with no option of a post season?"
Football teams are in a holding pattern when it comes to being able to hold practices this fall. That decision is expected to come soon.
"Upon approval from the school district, we could possibly spend some time this fall preparing for the spring season," Johnston noted. "The potential of having this option would allow us to get a jump start on personnel placements and schemes that we would like to execute in the spring."
The league is tentatively allowing teams to have a six-game regular season in the spring as opposed the normal eight-game season prior to playoffs. So that leaves open the possibility that teams will be allowed to practice in the fall.
"The spring season will be short and quick so there is a benefit to accomplishing some of these items this fall," Johnston noted. "A possible setback with fall practices is keeping athletes focused and motivated knowing they will not have any games soon."
But players could be welcome to the fact that they can be on the football field again, even if only for practice in the fall. It would give them a chance to spend time with their teammates, stay in shape, learn the system, and just be able to throw the pigskin around again.
"There are other obstacles to consider like the access to locker rooms and equipment sanitation," said Johnston. "But that is something we will have to figure out if we are allowed to get together. We are planning on also getting kids into the weight room and continue with their weight training."
Spring football just doesn't have that same ring to it as football in the fall.