Coaches Optimistic for Football this Fall
The enthusiasm in the voices of several coaches during the High School Coaches Show on Saturday was evident. The optimism for a season this fall echoed in their comments. The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) will vote Monday morning, September 21 on whether to shift football and volleyball back to the fall. The league acted in early August, moving those sports to a new spring season due to the pandemic.
Chad Gimbel, coach for the Class A defending state champs from Blooming Prairie, said, "I believe it's probably going to happen...We're starting to move forward as if that's going to be the case."
Gimbel acknowledges there are hurdles to putting together a season on short notice, from schedules to officials to working with the health protocols and keeping pods of players separated, but he is ready for it, "it will be a whirlwind, but it will be a good whirlwind and give some normalcy. We're looking forward to it. Hopefully it happens."
He would like to see playoffs too, however, "Number one is getting to play. Number two, going into some type of playoff would be nice. It would be hard to come to a conclusion and not know what the end result would be."
Jeff Williams, coach for the defending section champion Owatonna Huskies, sees the tide shifting in favor of shifting football back to the fall, "It seems like there's some momentum now in place for a fall season...I think it started with a core group of people...They were very much opposed to the move to spring for a number of reasons, field playability, field availability."
"Starting March 15 is kind of a tough pill to swallow...Those people were quite vocal, reached out to the football coaches association, reached out to the MSHSL, started to do some protesting at the governor's mansion. Petitions have been circulating both online and on email."
"Then the coaches association said...let's go talk with the powers that be with the state high school league and let's see if they'll reconsider. Will you at your next meeting give that a thought, what would be the possibility of getting a fall season in."
While he was initially skeptical when the buzz started, Williams believes the momentum is there to "let the kids play this fall."
He said quite a few coaches want playoffs to be part of a fall season, "You could probably wedge a six-game season in there and have some semblance of a playoff. That's been a topic of discussion too. The football coaches I've talked to - and I've talked to an awful lot in the last two weeks - are very adamant about having a playoff experience. If we're going to move to the fall but not have some sort of a section playoff and/or a state playoff, then they aren't as in favor of that, in hopes of maybe getting that in the spring."
Training sessions began for football and volleyball on September 14. Williams said the team was working on 7-on-7, speed development, and weight training, but was planning to add installation of some offensive and defensive schemes late in the week to begin preparations with the idea of starting the season in a couple of weeks.
Triton coach Mike Ellingson also believes the vote will be favor of starting football and the team is excited, "Trying not to get too hopeful, but also trying to get our (practice) schedules out and the potential information and implications that can be to parents...The general feel over here is we're pretty excited about the opportunity, and hopeful that the state high school league will let us play."
A team that faces a different hurdle, and they aren't alone, is NRHEG. The Panthers are on distance learning and their training sessions are being held virtually. Panthers coach Marc Kruger said they will be ready for whatever decision comes, "If we're going to play football this fall, we're going to figure it out. If we're going to move to the spring, we're going to figure it out. It's kind of how we're going to go for NRHEG. Whatever we can do, we'll do."