Troy’s public high schools are dealing with a new normal on and off the field

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Troy Kicker Ryan Peluso attempts a field goal vs. Royal Oak on Sept. 18/ Photo Credit: Jason Schmitt/ MediaNews Group (Used with Permission)

Student-athletes across the Troy school district have been dealt a mandate from Troy High School Athletic Director, Shane Hynes: Either exercise common sense during non-school hours and interact with as few people as possible or risk putting the entire fall sports season in danger. 

“People do stuff outside of sports, and that’s just the fact of the matter,” said Hynes. “We can’t control them (the students) 24/7, but we are going to do our best when they are with us. What we have been talking to (the students) about is how to minimize the risk when we aren’t playing sports.

“We’ve talked about not going to Somerset Mall, not going to grad parties, not going to BBQ’s and not traveling out-of-state for Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball tournaments and baseball tournaments.”

Hynes said Troy has yet to have one student-athlete test positive for COVID-19 during a sporting event since the MHSAA reinstated the fall sports season on Sept. 3. One student-athlete did test positive for COVID-19 away from the school environment; however, that student was isolated rather quickly, which prevented the virus from spreading.

The Troy school district consists of 12 elementary schools, four middle schools,and two public high schools. In addition, the district also has a satellite campus of the International Academy, a public magnet school that has its main campus in Bloomfield Hills. The Troy College and Career High School and the Troy Center for Transition are two additional nontraditional accredited schools within the district. All in all, the Troy School District contains approximately 13,000 students and 20 schools. 

MHSAA GUIDELINES

If a student-athlete does test positive for COVID-19, the Troy School District will be notified by the testing agency in conjunction with the Oakland County Health Department. From there, the health department would conduct rigorous contact-tracing measures to ensure that anyone who may have been exposed gets tested quickly.

Under current MHSAA guidelines, athletes in football, volleyball and boys soccer are required to wear masks at all times. Athletes who participate in swimming, cross country, golf and tennis are not required to wear masks during practice or games. All fans are also required to wear masks at all times. 

Furthermore, schools that fall under the “phase four” category of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reopening plan are only allowed to let in two spectators for every student-athlete. In essence, only the parents of the student-athletes are being allowed at sporting events. The vast majority of the lower peninsula currently falls under the “phase four “ classification.  

“Teams aren’t able to use locker rooms, so you come dressed for the games,” said Troy Director of Athletics, Tim Fulcher. “The pregame, halftime and postgame meetings are held in each team’s own endzone. It’s really two spectators per team member who attend games. They are socially distant and masked in the stands.”

The Battle Over Mask-Wearing

Numerous complaints have already been lodged about the wearing of masks during competition by students, parents, coaches and athletic directors, said Fulcher. 

“When the governor came out with her executive order … mandating that masks be worn by all athletes at all times for football, soccer and volleyball, that’s been challenging, “ said Fulcher. “It’s challenging for kids who are participating in high-intensity sports … whether it’s an adjustment period or making sure that they are able to get oxygen to their lungs and their body; it’s been challenging.”

Troy kicks off against Royal Oak on Sept. 18 at Royal Oak/ Photo Credit: Jason Schmitt/MediaNews Group (used with permission)

Troy and Troy Athens aren’t the only schools dealing with constantly changing guidelines and protocols. With such a large membership base, the MHSAA relies on each school to police itself regarding the implementation of mask-wearing and social distancing measures. 

“The following of all these guidelines is really on the schools, athletic directors and leadership,” said Geoff Kimmerly, the media and content coordinator for the MHSAA. “We have found that schools are doing a really nice job of following these guidelines because they realize what’s at stake. It’s either do things this way or potentially not do them at all.” 

While most schools are doing an excellent job in enforcing mask-wearing, some coaches are struggling to enforce the mandate while coaching at the same time.

“Personally, I haven’t had to stop a game yet, but I did have to mention something to an opposing coach at Bloomfield Hills,” said Hynes. “I had to ask him to ask his team to pull up their masks.”

Troy WR Darius Whiteside II goes up for a catch against Royal Oak /Photo Credit: Jason Schmitt/MediaNews Group (used with permission)

The new playoff format

For the first time in a decade, Troy Athens is slated to qualify for the MHSAA playoffs, despite its poor start. The Red Hawks are 1-2 through three weeks; they snapped a two-game skid on Oct. 2 by beating Auburn Hills Avondale 21-13.  Troy Athens was defeated by Bloomfield Hills (21-13) on Sept. 18 and Ferndale (28-23) on Sept. 25. 

The first game of the 2020 football season for crosstown rival Troy was against Royal Oak on Friday, Sept. 18. The Colts, who didn’t win a game last season, knocked off Royal Oak 20-17 and followed that up with another win, this time by beating Walled Lake Central 13-6 on Sept. 25.  Troy would suffer its first loss of the season against Berkley on Oct. 2, as the Colts were held scoreless en route to a 26-0 loss. 

Both teams are scheduled to play six regular-season games before the playoffs commence during the weekend of Oct. 30. For this season only, the MHSAA is allowing all member schools within its eight divisions to make the playoffs, regardless of how many wins said team has. 

The only requirement for playoff eligibility is that each team must play a minimum of four games. Full details about the playoff proceedings can be found here.

The MHSAA also recently released the complete regional pairings for all eight divisions. Troy and Troy Athens were placed within the Division I, Region 4, District 7 category. 

The other six schools included within this region are Bloomfield Hills, Farmington, Southfield A&T, Sterling Heights Stevenson, Utica Ford and West Bloomfield.  These eight teams will be seeded based on playoff point average once the playoffs begin. 

Playoff points will determine the matchup pairings for the playoffs. Points are earned when a team beats another team (teams are awarded 60 points for beating a Division I school, 55 for a Division II victory, 50 for beating a Division III school,etc.), as well as when a team’s opponent who it previously beat wins against another opponent. For example, if Troy beats Utica Ford this week and Utica Ford turns around and beats Farmington next week, Troy would receive a bonus point. As of this writing, Troy High School has earned 42.667 playoff points while Troy Athens has collected  22.333 playoff points. 

Troy and Troy Athens are scheduled to square off against each other on Oct. 23, the last week of the regular season. The game is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at Troy High  School.