Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday night that prep sports season will be put on hold for four weeks starting Friday, Nov. 20, at midnight in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
College and pro athletics are unaffected by the decision.
The announcement came on a day when Minnesota recorded a record 67 new COVID-19-related deaths, pushing the state's toll to 3,010.
The Minnesota Department of Health also reported 5,102 confirmed new cases, rising the state's total to 242,053. State officials said they expected to top 300,000 cases sometime next week.
Walz’s new mandate cuts short volleyball and football seasons while forcing winter sports to delay their start dates.
Milaca Activities Director Brian Julson found it difficult to cope with the shutdown.
“I completely understand the reasoning behind these decisions but it is really tough. It’s going to be really tough on these kids and families and they have had to endure over and over and over again. It never gets easier,” Julson said late Wednesday evening.
The Wolves will move their section football game up a day and will face a new opponent.
Instead of Foley, the Wolves will take on Annandale in the Section 3A Championship. The game will be played on Nov. 20 at 5 p.m. at Rockford High School.
Milaca’s volleyball hopes to play on Friday as well, heading to Pine City. School officials are awaiting a decision on that contest because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Princeton is moving its football game from Nov. 21 to this Friday. The Tigers still facing Delano at John Harvey Field at 5 p.m. according to Athletic Director Darin Laabs.
The Tigers’ volleyball team will also be in action as they will host St. Francis in what will be the teams’ season finale. The match will tip at 5:30 p.m.
Laabs sees the two teams ending their season on their home courts as a fitting finish to the year despite not being able to continue.
“It sucks that volleyball has to end before their section tournament and it is tough for football not get the chance to keep playing, but we get to play our last game with both programs on our home floors and field. We can rally around that,” Laabs said.
The winner of the Princeton and Delano football game will receive a state participation trophy. The other game winner in the bracket featuring Big Lake and Becker will also receive a trophy.
As the seasons come to an end for fall sports, the winter season may begin if new restrictions are lifted. In order for that to happen, cases must decrease.
Julson worries that students who were busy with sports or other activities may lose sight of that goal with everything being on pause.
“The one push that I have always communicated and talked about it is keeping kids involved in activities and athletics,” Julson said. “Now with kids having a lot more free time, I am hoping that kids continue to have the big picture in mind with us getting back into school and getting back to a semi normal winter season.”
Junior high basketball, one act play, and speech join volleyball, football and winter sports as activities that have been affected.
During the layoff, Laabs looks at the break as an opportunity to learn how to better combat the spread of the virus.
“Let’s learn from it. Let’s come back strong and let’s take this time to come back with a schedule that makes sense for winter sports. Let’s try it again,” Laabs said.
But in order get prep sports back, Laabs and Julson agreed COVID-19 cases numbers must decrease.
“The first thing we have to do is drive the number down, if we are doing something that drives the number up, we won’t get to go. Our No. 1 job has to be make sure we are doing what we can to stop the spread,” Laabs said.
Dec. 18 at midnight is the current target date when winter sports can begin practicing.
Editor's Note: This story contains material supplied by the Associated Press