Michigan high school football's six-game season starts today

Ron Bellamy probably said it best ahead of his team's game on Friday.

"...in order to do something we want to do, we gotta do what we have to do."

And what Bellamy, his West Bloomfield Lakers, and every other high school team in Michigan wants to do is play football. And they'll get their chance to Friday night - but first, they gotta do what they have to do. 

That means wearing a mask on the football field. That means going through a health screening ahead of game time. And for the fans, socially distancing in the stands.

"Every day we just reminded them, it's redundant, it's repetitive, but that's the way we're going to play football," said Bellamy. "It's unlike any times we've ever had."

It's been an offseason unlike any other for high school athletes. Many expecting to play in the fall found themselves with little hope of such a reality as August dragged on and no mention of contact sports being included in the list of what's OK to do during the pandemic.

Then early September, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave the proverbial nod to the Michigan High School Athletic Association that organized sports may happen with strict safety measures in place. It came around the same time she allowed gyms and fitness centers to reopen.

“Individuals can now choose whether or not to play organized sports, and if they do choose to play, this order requires strict safety measures to reduce risk,” said her chief medical executive in a statement. 

The abridged season will be shorted to six games and every team will make the playoffs. Only two teams will be permitted at a site at a time - meaning no junior varsity or freshman football teams will be permitted when an opposing team is on the field.

Spectators at football games hosted in most of the lower peninsula will be allowed to invite two guests. In regions further north where the virus isn't as present, a maximum of 500 spectators is permitted for outdoor sports, or 25% the stadium's capacity.

However, play is contingent on a school's ability to keep it's COVID-19 count down. Some schools like Novi, Utica, and Lake Orion weren't so lucky after COVID-19 had been transmitted to some of its players. MHSAA protocols for positive cases dictate that health departments must be contacted and close contacts may have to quarantine for 14 days.

Any students, coaches, officials, and others at an event where exposure was possible but weren't in close contact should be monitored for symptoms and may not need testing. 

Other schools like West Bloomfield and Oak Park will make due on Friday - face masks and all.