'I think it's a realistic schedule': Prep teams glad to still have seasons

  • Illinois high schools won't play football this fall, but the could by spring according to the IHSA's 2020-21 plan that was laid out on Wednesday.

      Illinois high schools won't play football this fall, but the could by spring according to the IHSA's 2020-21 plan that was laid out on Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/30/2020 6:01 AM

Friday night lights are moving from August to March this year, which promises to be a strange sight on numerous levels.

But at least schools are still planning to flip the switch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When the IHSA announced Wednesday that football, boys soccer and girls volleyball are moving from a fall sport to a spring season as part of a plan to get in all high school sports in the 2020-21 school year, local reaction was generally positive.

"We've obviously had a lot of time to think about best and worst case scenarios," Naperville Central football coach Mike Stine said. "The fact that we still have a chance at a season is definitely a positive. It's going to be weird but we'll be excited for it."

The new spring season starts Feb. 15 and ends May 1. It follows the winter season (Nov. 16 to Feb. 13) and fall (Aug. 10-Oct. 24).

"It's a pretty fair attempt to try to get some sports in already starting this fall," Barrington athletic director Mike Obsuszt said. "It's a tough juggling act by the IHSA taking the wishes of the member schools, what the state board of education was laying out and then Governor Pritzker coming out this afternoon with some new details and guidelines. I think it's a realistic schedule."

Batavia senior wide receiver Trey Urwiler is a senior committed to Northern Illinois. The all-DuKane Conference pick's reaction to the announcement was mixed.

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"I was just texting with some of the guys. I don't really know what to think. I mean, it's good, right? It's good. It's good, but at the same time, the spring, that's a lot of time and you just don't know what's going to happen. So, I'm happy that we're planning to have football, but that's a long time. I remain optimistic, but it's crazy.

"It's interesting because usually the football season goes from hot to cold weather-wise. Now, it's going to go from cold to hot. It's going to be a lot different if this plan actually goes through. It's going to raise a ton of questions for early graduates and what a bunch of kids are going to do. I'm sick of waiting so this kind of stinks. I want to play ball, you know? At least we're playing football."

Glenbrook South athletic director Steve Rockrohr was glad the IHSA found a way to give every sport a chance to have a season.

"I think they were put in a really tough spot, and I think that they did the best they can do," Rockrohr said. "They gave everybody the opportunity to have a season. It may not be exactly what they were looking for, what they were hoping for, but it does give everybody something to work towards. They're going to have a season."

Girls volleyball coach Patty Langanis, who has won 678 games and the 2009 state title at Cary-Grove, was relieved by the news -- though she said for the first time in her 25-year career she will have to figure out spring break along with navigating snow on the way to games.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We left practice at 12:30 today and when they walked out our hope was we wouldn't hear the word 'canceled' and we wouldn't hear 'shortened fall season.' That's what we were hoping for and we got what we wanted," Langanis said.

"Now we just have to hope our state can start getting our (COVID) numbers to go down. Just have to hope our communities do what they need to do to stop these outbreaks from happening so we can stick to the schedule. I feel the IHSA did as good of job as could be expected."

Stevenson girls golf coach Emma Degen wasn't sure what would come out of Wednesday's IHSA board meeting. Golf, cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving will remain fall sports.

"I went back and forth," Degen said. "I was like, 'Why would they cancel golf? The golf courses are open' to 'They might cancel all sports' to 'Stevenson's fully remote (learning) so that might mean kids can't come back' to 'We're definitely going to have a golf season.' It was a roller coaster."

Her Patriots are the defending Class 2A state champions.

"It would have been hard to watch my now seniors not be able to get that chance (to defend their state title)," Degen said. "We're very fortunate. I know not every kid (in other sports) is going to have the same opportunity."

Vernon Hills girls cross country coach Suzanne Curry was pleasantly surprised to learn her sport will have its fall season.

"I wasn't sure what was going to happen just with all the recent news and spiking (COVID-19) cases," Curry said. "Everything has just been so uncertain during these times. It's a relief to have a decision made. That's the best feeling, just knowing that, OK, we're going to have a starting point. We don't know what's going to happen from that point, but at least what we've been working toward all summer is something we can continue right on through Aug. 10 and go from there."

Obsuszt said he is waiting to learn more about potential state series for sports like basketball, which will affect the way he makes the regular season schedule.

He also wondered if they will be able to keep the same number of kids on a team, such as 80 swimmers.

But he's glad to have the chance to work on solutions.

"A lot of those type of questions we have to take a look at," Obsuszt said. "Everyone just wanted to know what direction we are going. Coaches by nature want to be prepared. Administrators want to be prepared. For the last couple months it was hard to be prepared. Now we can go about preparing for what has been laid out. We all know things can change."

Joe Aguilar, Jerry Fitzpatrick, Dave Oberhelman and Kevin Schmit contributed to this story.

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