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They’re back: local high school prep sports begin fall season

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RONAN – High school sports returned to the Mission Valley last Friday as teams practiced for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic canceled activities.  

The Montana High School Association gave schools the green light to go ahead in early July for the season with golf, cross country, football, soccer and volleyball; although, the season will look different this year due to COVID-19 guidelines. 

“The guys are happy to be out here,” said Ronan Chief head football coach Matt Detwiler, during the Saturday morning practice. “They have done a ton of work on their own since the shutdown back in March and throughout the summer. Every time I drove by the field, I could see kids out here playing catch and doing stuff. It was cool to see.”

On Thursday, Aug. 13, the MHSA executive board adopted additional rule changes to the list of coronavirus mitigation measures that regulate team practices and eventual games. MHSA officials voted on a face-covering policy, which requires officials, coaches and players, when not on the court or field, to wear face coverings. The requirement will be in place regardless of the number of COVID-19 cases in a respective county.

Due to the anticipated shortage of officials, the MHSA adopted changes to the required number for regular-season soccer and football contests. The regular-season soccer games can be held with two officials rather than three. Football can now use four officials rather than five. 

The new regulations also state: “Any MHSA activity participant who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 cannot return to play until he/she is evaluated by a licensed healthcare professional and has written clearance to return to play by both the county health department and a licensed healthcare professional.”

According to Detwiler, the Ronan coaches and athletes have done a great job of adapting as they navigate the safety protocols and guidelines. 

“Some of the nuances of the game have changed,” said Detwiler.

The changes for volleyball are also in place. Teams will not change sides between matches; the number of players allowed in a locker room at one time has been limited; and players are required to bring their own water bottles. 

For volleyball and football, the tradition of players shaking hands before and after a game has been eliminated. 

There is still a lot of uncertainty about how fall sports will unfold or what kind of setbacks may lie ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic. Detwiler said he has explained the uncertainty to the team by telling them that they never know when the last game might be: “I literally mean this when I say, you need to play every single game like it is your last because it just may very well be.”


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