By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Looks like there will be football and marching band hoop la on Oxford High School’s famed blue field afterall.
Last Thursday, the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) Representative Council reinstated the 2020 fall football season after Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 176, lifting restrictions that previously did not allow “high-risk” sports to be played.
The Executive Order also allows for an immediate start of competition in boys’ soccer and Lower Peninsula girls’ swimming and diving and volleyball. Previously, Region 1, where Oakland County is located, was not allowed to host these activities.
“We are thankful for the opportunity for kids to get back on the field in all fall sports, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer providing that opportunity,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said in the organization’s statement..
“Thirty-three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible. We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy.
This reversal of course came just 20 days after the Representative Council announced plans to postpone the football season until the spring.
Met with severe backlash, the controversy surrounding this decision culminated in a “Let Them Play” rally at the state capitol in Lansing on August 28, which several Oxford student-athletes and coaches attended.
While this is great news for the Wildcat football community, this season will look different than years past. Most notably, the regular season will be reduced to six games, beginning on Friday, September 18, instead of its usual nine games.
Head coach Zach Line said the school should have their schedule finalized this week, but, tentatively, the plan is to open on the road against the rival Lake Orion Dragons and play through October 16 as originally scheduled.
This would have Oxford traveling to battle the Clarkston Wolves on September 25, hosting the Oak Park Knights on October 2, hitting the road again to clash with the West Bloomfield Lakers on October 9, and returning to Wildcat Stadium to play the North Farmington Raiders on October 16. The only change would be moving the home game against the Southfield A&T Warriors, initially slated for September 11, to the season finale on October 23.
This six-game set includes each of Oxford’s five Oakland Activities Association (OAA) Red Division opponents and one game that will not count in the divisional standings, with North Farmington residing in the OAA White.
The games against the Macomb Area Conference’s (MAC) Romeo Bulldogs and Sterling Heights Stevenson Titans and the OAA White’s Stoney Creek Cougars would be axed from the schedule.
Again, this is tentative, as of September 6, but appears to be the likely case. Oxford’s official athletic website, oxfordathletics.org, was to have the official schedule announcement on September 8.
September 8 is also the date the Wildcats were to resume practice, just in helmets and shoulder pads. Following two days in “shells,” the team will begin practice in full pads this Thursday, September 10.
The state playoffs will start on Friday, October 30 and this year, every team will be eligible for the postseason, regardless of record. Factoring in these additional playoff teams, the state finals are scheduled for December 4-5, one week later than the traditional date.
The location of the state finals appears likely to change, too. Usually held at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, John Johnson, Director of Broadcast Properties for the MHSAA, does not anticipate these games being held there. He said the governing body is exploring host high school and collegiate sites.
By Teddy Rydquist