Covid-19 Creates a Different Season for High School Sports
The Covid-19 pandemic continues to create chaos in the world of sports. Despite the recent cancellations or postponements of most college seasons, most high schools across the state remain committed to pressing forward with a fall season. Three of the Montana schools in hardest-hit regions of the state canceled their football seasons: St. Labre, Lodge Grass, and Northern Cheyenne (6-man southern division).
The Montana 6-Man football league recently voted by an overwhelming margin to change their traditional 9-week regular-season schedule to a 7-week conference-only format. Several athletic administrators voice concerns regarding non-conference games, forcing teams to travel long distances across the state into potential COVID hot spots.
The newly realigned Northern Division consists of seven teams, creating a 6-game schedule, with a goodbye for the Pioneers in week 5. The MHSA executive board has decided that teams with open spots in their schedule may pursue a non-conference game, but available teams are limited. As of press time, Big Sandy is seeking a potential game.
The change in schedule also creates a scenario where the first round of playoffs moves up two weeks and will begin during the MEA break (October 16-17).
COVID has caused changes to this year’s volleyball season as well. The Pioneers typically compete in two “showcases” throughout the season; the preseason showcase in Belt and the North Star showcase halfway through the season. MHSA eliminated all multi-team competitions during the regular season, so Big Sandy has picked up individual games with Denton-Stanford-Geyser and Dutton-Brady. The post-season tournament format is currently being examined with the possibility of a “playoff” format similar to football being used rather than a traditional multi-team tournament.
The MHSA executive board recently met and issued the following directive: Cloth facial coverings are required for all players, coaches, and officials. Face coverings do not have to be worn during play, but substitutes must wear masks when not competing or per specific MHSA sport requirements. Face Coverings must be worn by players/coaches by rule, no matter the number of active COVID-19 cases in the county. Big Sandy High School will provide masks for athletes and coaches.
The Pioneers kick off their season with a home volleyball game against Chinook on Thursday, August 27th (C squad @ 4, JV +20, Varsity +20) and a home football game against Valier on Friday, August 28th.
District 7C volleyball and the Northern Division 6-man football league are still in discussions on how to best host spectators for both football and volleyball. Montana is still in “Phase 2,” limiting the number of people at both indoor and outdoor gatherings. Area athletic directors are working to find the safest solutions to allow spectators while keeping our teams and communities safe. More information will be available in next week’s edition.