I’ve been asked several times over the last few weeks why all fall high school sports in Wisconsin are having or have had a state tournament but football won’t?
The girls golf, boys and girls cross country and girls tennis seasons are complete, culminating with a state tournament series for each. Boys soccer and boys and girls volleyball are holding state meets this Saturday. Girls swim holds its state meet for Division 2 on Friday, Nov. 13 and Division 1 on Saturday, Nov. 14.
So what’s the plan for football?
As of right now, the WIAA plans to limit the postseason to just two levels without a true state tournament or champions being crowned for the seven divisions. Qualifying teams will be placed into one of the seven divisions based on enrollment and then placed in eight-team regionals. The plan is to then break down the eight-team regionals into two, four-team pods “regionally and competitively when possible,” according to the WIAA.
Elkhorn Area High is currently 3-3 on the season with a nonconference game left on the schedule against Sheboygan Falls on Friday night. Elkhorn athletic director John Handel said the Elks look forward to competing in the postseason despite being allowed to play a maximum of only two games.
“Anytime you’re in the playoffs, it’s a good thing,” Handel said. “My guess is that we’ll likely be put in a group with three other teams from our conference (Southern Lakes). And if we win in Week 8, we get another game in Week 9. If we lose in Week 8, our season is over.
“My concern is that there might not be enough teams to fill some groupings around the state, because teams are opting out of the playoffs before they even start.”
So why is football shortening the postseason to two games while the rest of the fall sports had state tournaments?
The answer is probably two-fold.
First of all, take a look at the calendar.
The regular season wraps up Friday, which means the two playoff weeks will be played Nov. 13 and Nov. 20. If the postseason were to continue after that, it would be running up against Thanksgiving weekend and deer hunting. That’s something the WIAA has always tried to avoid. Even during a coronavirus pandemic, those two things are sacred in Wisconsin.
The second reason for a shortened tournament series, and the more important one, is the fact that football is considered a high-risk sport. More than 40 schools have already opted out of the postseason due to COVID-19 concerns, and that list will likely grow as positive cases continue to spike in the state. With contact tracing in full force, schools will certainly err on the side of caution and opt out knowing that a true state champion will not be crowned.
Madison Edgewood’s girls volleyball team announced Tuesday that it was withdrawing from the Division 2 state tournament Saturday because of public health protocols likely related to COVID-19.
In these difficult times, having two postseason games is certainly better than none at all. Let’s just hope we get to that point before everything is shut down.
Elkhorn to host Sheboygan Falls
Elkhorn was supposed to play Wilmot on Friday to wrap up the Southern Lakes Conference season.
Unfortunately, the Panthers have dealt with COVID-19 concerns all season long and were forced to cancel the game.
Fortunately for the Elks, they’ve found a nonconference opponent in Sheboygan Falls, whom they’ll host Friday night in the regular-season finale.
No Southern Lakes schools were allowed to play nonconference opponents during the regular season, but since this is the last game of the regular season for Elkhorn, it was allowed to look outside the conference for a game.
“If this would’ve been any other week but this week, we wouldn’t have been able to play,” Handel said. “Waterford wanted to play a nonconference game last week, but the conference would not allow it because they still had a conference game left on the schedule.
“Sheboygan Falls was willing to come down and play, so things worked out for us.”
Wilmot has played only three conference games, while Elkhorn, Delavan-Darien and Westosha Central have all played six. Delavan-Darien’s final game of the season, scheduled to be played at Union Grove on Friday, has been canceled.