Andover players gathered before their game against Rogers last Friday. The Huskies (6-0) are one of just three teams in their section and will next play in the championship game on Nov. 25. Photo: Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
At least 74 Minnesota high school football teams will be missing from the section playoffs that begin Tuesday, sidelined by COVID-19 issues that have resulted in little uniformity from one section to the next.
The absences, amounting to almost one in five football programs statewide, include six teams from 31-school Class 6A and five-time defending Class 2A champion Caledonia.
While some teams knew their fates last week, others were not disclosed until the weekend as schools moved hastily to distance learning, restricting sports and activities in response to rapidly growing COVID problems in their districts.
“We are monitoring this daily,” said Bob Madison, Minnesota State High School League associate director, who serves as its liaison for football. “We didn’t know where the number of cases would be when we decided to have section tournaments for the fall sports.”
The six Class 6A schools not playing are Buffalo, Burnsville, Forest Lake, Hopkins, Maple Grove and Mounds View.
“We’ve done the best we could to get to this point,” Madison said.
With most sections consisting of six to eight teams, the Minnesota State High School League awarded up to three postseason games per school after a condensed six-game regular season schedule that began six weeks later than usual. The league initially deferred football and volleyball to the spring, then changed course on Sept. 21.
“This has been frustrating since Friday, March 13,” said Madison, referring to when the pandemic shut down the boys’ and girls’ basketball seasons without crowning a state champion. “We’ve been trying to provide opportunities for our student-athletes to play.”
Among the seven classes from 6A through Nine-Man, three sections are down to three teams. In Class 5A, Section 7, top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Andover (6-0) won’t play until Nov. 25, when it will host the winner of Cambridge-Isanti and Coon Rapids for the section title.
Section 1 games in Class 5A and 4A are limited to just Tuesday. Class 5A will be holding a championship, third-place and fifth-place game while Class 4A is down to a third-place and championship matchup.
Some sections lacking enough teams for three rounds won’t play their first games until Saturday. Others will play their championships that day.
“It’s far less uniform,” Madison said. “There is a local control aspect to it right now.”
Most sections are scheduled to hold their championships Nov. 27-28. The state tournament was canceled because of COVID concerns.