SUTTONS BAY — Suttons Bay wanted badly to get back to the state championship game.
But not this way.
Inland Lakes forfeited Saturday’s eight-player Division 1 state semifinal contest to Suttons Bay after a COVID-19 outbreak at the school led to multiple positive tests on the Bulldogs team and even more players in quarantine.
“You’d almost rather lose a semifinal football game than not be able to play a semifinal football game,” Suttons Bay athletic director Doug Periard said.
Inland Lakes athletic director Lewis Robinson called Periard in the late morning Friday to inform him the Bulldogs were informed by the Health Department that they wouldn’t be allowed to play.
“I didn’t want it to go this way,” said Norsemen head coach Garrick Opie, who guided the team to last year’s state finals as well. “Nobody wants to win that way.”
It’s the fourth game out of 32 slated for the weekend to get canceled. Oscoda, Stevensville Lakeshore and Reed City all previously forfeited games.
Inland Lakes head coach Travis Meyer doubted whether the Bulldogs would have been able to safely play a game even if the health department hadn’t stepped in and shut it down.
Meyer said two asymptomatic players tested positive Thursday, and second PCR tests done by the health department also came back positive Friday morning. Combined with other players in quarantine, Meyer said Inland Lakes would have faced the Norsemen with a hybrid of varsity and junior varsity players.
“We would have had a lot of young players out there in roles they haven’t played much or at all this season,” Meyer said.
Meyer said the players being asymptomatic didn’t make the situation any easier. The Bulldogs (8-1) advanced this far by a forfeit from Pickford, which had numerous players in quarantine before ultimately that game was shut down by the health department and Michigan High School Athletic Association.
“It’s the same situation, except we had testing,” Meyer said. “Who knew if we would have played it and it could have turned into something better. We would have been oblivious.”
Opie said the Norse would conduct their antigen testing and practice as usual Friday evening. Suttons Bay hasn’t had a single positive test since the rapid-testing pilot program through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services started in order to resume the football, volleyball and swimming postseasons.
“I feel bad for Inland Lakes,” Opie said. “We would have seen some adversity in that game, and we welcomed it. Winning is one thing; playing and competing for a title, but going down in history as a state finalist from COVID circumstances is not the greatest.”
Suttons Bay (10-0) moves on to the state championship game Jan. 16 at Brighton’s indoor Legacy Center facility, taking on either Martin (8-1) or Adrian Lenawee Christian (9-0), who face off Saturday afternoon at Adrian College. The 11-player state finals are Jan. 23 at Ford Field in Detroit.
“I would like the MHSAA to move the (eight-player) finals at Ford Field,” Opie said. “I don’t think eight-man football should be excluded because of lower enrollment.”
The Cadillac Vikings regional final game against Ada Forest Hills Eastern has been moved to Thirlby Field in Traverse City Saturday. The Cadillac athletic department announced Friday that the game would be moved due to unsafe field conditions at Cadillac. The game is set for 5:30 p.m. or one hour after TC Central and North Farmington finish their game.