Local High Schools React to Football Postponement

Area educators are adjusting to an announcement by the IHSA that football will be played in the spring of 2021.

FHS Pretzel Stadium
FHS Pretzel Stadium

Area football coaches are excited to have a set date for the 2020-21 school year’s football season, following an announcement by the Illinois High School Association that football will be played in the spring.

Anthony Dedmond, head coach of the Freeport Pretzels, said he was excited when he heard the news. 

He described the possibility of a cancelled football season “bleak,” and was glad that students have football to look forward to in the spring. 

He told The Voice that he is “truly excited” for his students to have an opportunity to focus on their first semester classes in a way that cannot normally happen when football is played in the fall.

In a July 29th release, the IHSA announced a temporary athletic schedule which will move football to the spring season in 2021. 

The plan, meant to allow sports to occur in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortened all competitive seasons and created a new summer season for traditional spring sports like track and field, tennis, baseball, and softball.

While referred to as the spring season, the season will actually begin during the winter on February 15th. It will end May 1st. 

Kyle Zick, head coach of the Forreston Cardinals, called the IHSA’s decision “a good plan.” 

He was glad that the schedule gives an opportunity for students to play football in the spring and still play sports like baseball or track and field during the new “summer season” which runs from early May to the end of June.

Orangeville Broncos head coach Steve Snider said that “postponement is better than cancellation.” He told The Voice he is grateful that the season will happen at all, and said that he is sympathetic for “the athletes and the coaches that lost a season [this] spring.”

The movement of the football season to the spring will have a ripple effect on many students and educators. 

Administrators at Orangeville are having conversations about how their high school’s homecoming week will be affected by the move. The celebration is usually centered around a home football game which will no longer be played under the new IHSA guidelines. 

The move also looks to impact high school music departments; many local high schools have marching bands which play at their home games. 

Bill Petersen, Director of Bands at Freeport High School, told The Voice that he does not plan to field Freeport’s marching band in the spring. He plans to have the students learn and record a marching show during the fall semester.

Other band directors said their plans were uncertain. Lori Dittmar, band director at Stockton High School, said she feels it is  unsafe for her students to rehearse during the fall. 

The IHSA’s decision to move football to the spring is meant to buy time for the country to address rising COVID rates, but it places the high school football season in the spring for the first time in recent memory.

Dedmond noted that in normal years the football season begins in warm conditions and ends as the weather turns cold. This year, that will be reversed. 

Multiple coaches said their players were excited at the prospect of practicing in the snowy months of February and early March. 

It must be noted that the IHSA’s plan is subject to change depending on the state of the COVID pandemic in Illinois. Any setbacks in the fall could have a cascade effect on the sports slated to occur in the winter, spring, and early summer.

Zick said that there will be many details to figure out as his coaching staff moves forward. “The situation is fluid,” he said.

But when faced with the alternative of outright cancellation, Zick said the headache of adjusting to an uncertain plan is a “good dilemma to have.”