TRAVERSE CITY — Only one game instead of two will happen Jan. 9 at Thirlby Field.
Oscoda forfeited its Division 7 regional championship game against Traverse City St. Francis, a contest scheduled as part of a doubleheader with Traverse City Central and North Farmington.
St. Francis (7-2) was scheduled to host the Owls (9-0) Jan. 9 at 11:30 a.m. at Thirlby, followed by Central-North Farmington at 3 p.m.
The Owls list 29 players on their roster online, but that number lowered to 19 in their last game, a 38-35 district championship win over Evart. With all-state quarterback Owen Franklin — who accounted for almost 1,800 yards and 28 touchdowns — also injured, only 13 players showed up for practice Monday.
Traverse City St. Francis practiced as normal Monday afternoon, even though news of Oscoda’s decision started to emerge around the same time.
“The kids said they heard rumors,” St. Francis head coach Josh Sellers said. “Unexpected and yet not unexpected anymore. It stinks. It stinks for them and for us.”
TC Central’s Jan. 9 game remains set for a 3 p.m. kickoff as of now.
“Our organization cannot in good (conscience) allow our remaining kids to compete in mid-January after this period of inactivity, especially absent several athletes who are not able to participate for a variety of individual and personal reasons,” Oscoda Area Schools superintendent Scott Moore said Monday afternoon in an emailed statement. “The decision to continue this tournament in the midst of a pandemic, in the middle of the winter and with very limited practices afforded to our children is not something we feel comfortable with. It is unfortunate but prudent that the consensus to withdraw from the tournament was made and our heart goes out to the remaining 13 students that were willing to forge ahead, but the fact remains that the safety of our students must come first. The challenge for all schools, but particularly those in Divisions 7 & 8 are that if a few students are not capable of competing for whatever reason, the result is having an inadequate number of athletes that can safely participate at this level.”
Sellers said the Gladiators used practice Monday to work on basics — running, agility, tackling — to get players back in football shape after only being allowed to practice twice since sports paused Nov. 15.
The Glads now face not having played for two months when they take on the winner of Cass City (9-0) and Ithaca (9-0) in a Jan. 16 state semifinal on the road.
Sellers said TCSF’s roster has been steady at 30 or more players for team activities recently (out of a playoff roster of 36), with a few players here or there missing from practice because of family obligations or driver’s education classes.