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4681 articles
Tuesday September 21, 2021
CRUSHED: Jets Football Team Reacts To Shutdown

Click the audio buttons to hear interviews with NCA senior Carter Eichmeier and Coach Leo Gorzinski

POWERS---
All season long, the North Central Jets football players and coaches were thankful to just be able to get on the field and play the game that they love. They relished the fact that they were given the chance to compete, and did what they could to make sure that they did nothing to ruin their chances of playing for a state championship.

Some of the guys went to Lansing in August to a rally begging for the chance to play. And they were rewarded when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allowed football to be played, albeit with masks and helmet face shields. All season long the Jets navigated the waters that saw other teams have their seasons paused, confident that they were all doing the right things.

They dominated on the scoreboard throughout the fall, winning every game but one by the mercy rule. The Jets were poised to host a state semifinal football game when Whitmer announced a "three-week pause to save lives". Still the team kept the faith, especially when the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced that the Jets would host the Marion Tigers in Powers on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and that practice would begin on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

All of that came crashing down on Monday as Whitmer announced another 12-day shutdown, making it virtually impossible to resume the football season this year.

And the reaction moments after the announcement was pretty predictable.

"We got shut down (Nov. 15) that, hey, the MHSAA's got this, it's under control, we'll just do our personal workouts," senior captain Carter Eichmeier said. "Then we find out today that we get shut down for, how ever long, maybe forever. Our hope got built up, and just got destroyed. We're just, honestly confused, and mind-blown, and really just don't know what to say right now."

North Central Head Coach Leo Gorzinski said this is a tough pill to swallow.

"We know there's things out there that are bigger than sports," Gorzinski said. "We understand that. But it's a tough way to try to explain to these kids that have invested so much time into this portion of their life. Especially the seniors. It's something that's been looming over this whole season, and you're so close to the finish line, it's just hard to absorb it all right now."

MHSAA Director Mark Uyl had pleaded with Whitmer, and state health department director Robert Gordon, saying that they had conducted safe seasons up until the first shutdown. He said that high school sports  were not spreading COVID-19, and that the games could be played without any fans at all, if necessary. But that argument ultimately was rejected.

"As a parent of a high schooler, and as the governor of Michigan, I believe that out first priority should be getting our students back in the classroom safely," she said after being asked Monday about high school sports resuming. "That, I believe, is paramount."

But the NCA cvoach and players say that high school football has operated safely.

"Our whole team was (taking classes) on-line, not being exposed to anybody," Eichmeier said, his voice shaking. "We always wore masks whenever we went out. We wore our face shield duing the games. We just did everything that we needed to do, and so did the other teams out there that we played. I think if there's any sport to be played with a very safe outcome, it's football."

"We have done everything that we've been asked," Gorzinski says. "We've followed these (mask, social distancing) rules. These kids have obeyed those lockdowns since before the season began. They've been virtual in school. You feel like you've followed all of the rules, and then you get handed this card. We did all of the protocols. Everything they've been asking us, we've been doing that, for months. I don't blame them for feeling bitter right now."

The MHSAA Representative Council will meet on Wednesday to go over possible options of completing the football season, at some point. But the NCA Jets are not getting their hopes up again.

"We made it all the way through the playoffs, playing the best football that we've played all year," Eichmeier said. "And then right after we won one little (regional) trophy, one little milestone before we got to the big trophy, we got shut down, with two games left, and it's kind of a shame."





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