It’s this zany, unpredictable coronavirus year that makes players and fans feel frustrated and disoriented one minute, then relieved and hopeful the next. Last week, the Minnesota State High School League reversed itself and switched football and volleyball from spring to fall. On Monday, teams began practicing in earnest for actual games set to begin Oct. 8 for volleyball and Oct. 9 for football.
But the League is not done yet. On Thursday, it plans to vote on the starting dates for winter sports. On Sept. 23, MSHSL task force members discussed the option of delaying the traditional start-up dates for winter events, but whatever they ultimately choose to do, there will be fewer games and events and maybe no state tournaments.
The Worthington Trojans’ first regular season football game will be on the road Saturday, Oct. 10, at 1 p.m. in Fairmont. The Cardinals are a traditional early-season opponent for WHS, and the kickoff figures to be a barometer on both teams’ capabilities moving forward.
On Friday, Oct. 16, the Trojan gridders play their first game on newly-remodeled Trojan Field in a 7 p.m. start against New Ulm. The remainder of the regular season schedule (all 7 p.m. starts): Waseca at Worthington Oct. 23, Worthington at St. Peter Oct. 30, Marshall at Worthington Nov. 6, and Worthington at Luverne Nov. 12. The section tournament format is yet to be determined.
The WHS football team went 0-9 last year, after going 3-6 in 2018-19.
Elsewhere around southwest Minnesota, Oct. 9 openers have Blue Earth Area at Jackson County Central, Luverne at Pipestone Area, Redwood Valley at Windom Area, Edgerton at Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, Renville County West at Red Rock Central, Grand Meadow at Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey, Adrian/Ellsworth at New Ulm Cathedral, Hills-Beaver Creek at Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s and Murray County Central at Sleepy Eye.
Adrian/Ellsworth was one of several area clubs that began practicing earlier than Monday, but this week the Dragons are getting ready for a specific opponent. They planned to put on pads on Tuesday, but their first order of business was simply to get themselves educated on how different the 2020 season will be.
Head coach Randy Schettler said that new rules needed to be explained on Monday. The players, he said, needed to understand all the new requirements in order to keep everyone safe.
“All the way down to where the water bottles go. Because the water bottles have to be six feet apart,” he said.
For many football teams, only a few players requiring quarantining can cause a season to be disrupted. Adrian/Ellsworth seems especially vulnerable, with just 31 athletes on the team between grades 9-12. There are just nine juniors and seniors on the squad altogether.
The need for social distancing is no joke.
“It’s about them having to save their own season,” Schettler said. “‘Cuz it’s not about practice, it’s about what you do outside of practice — what they do with their free time to keep others safe.”
The Worthington High School volleyball season gets under way on Saturday, Oct. 10 in St. Peter with the Big South Conference Crossover. Then it’s back to Worthington on Oct. 13 to host the Windom Eagles. The rest of the regular season schedule: Worthington at Jackson County Central Oct. 15, Marshall at Worthington Oct. 20, Worthington at Luverne Oct. 22, Pipestone Area at Worthington Oct. 27, Worthington at Redwood Valley Oct. 29, Worthington at Windom Area Nov. 5, Jackson County Central at Worthington Nov. 10, Worthington at Pipestone Area Nov. 12, Luverne at Worthington Nov. 17, Worthington at Marshall Nov. 19, Redwood Valley at Worthington Nov. 23, and TBD at Worthington Nov. 24.
Red Rock Conference teams begin on Oct. 8 with Adrian/Ellsworth at Edgerton, Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey at Hills-Beaver Creek, Murray County Central at Red Rock Central and Southwest Christian at Westbrook-Walnut Grove.