Covering all 22 OAA teams with insight and thoughts on each team from Northern Oakland County to Southern Oakland County.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Mental Health Aspect-Opinion Piece.
Written Wednesday November 18th at 9:10 PM
What I’ve been hearing with coronavirus cases rising in the State. The State decided that a three week pause could help things however something else is brewing underneath everything that the media, state officials, or medical experts should look at.
The mental health and emotional component.
The mental health of student athletes is seriously at risk and that is a serious problem.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services medical executive Joneigh Khaldun, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer put a pause in school sports among other things for three weeks on Sunday night.
I thought about what more mental anguish and sadness that these student athletes have to suffer thanks to these three.
Gordon said in the press conference that the reason why school sports were paused was because of contact risks. “We are suspending organized sports for three weeks because they bring together people in setting that often involve high levels of contact and exhalation and where individuals move from outdoors to indoors.”
I’m not buying what Gordon is saying at all. All schools do temperature checks and have “clear to go apps” even before they enter the building. Schools have done a great job keeping students and staff safe, I’ve seen it. This was all done behind MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl’s back. He wasn’t even consulted when the new restrictions came out.
Most health experts say that school sports can create “super-spreader events” because of the mixing but there is evidence out there that that is not the case. According to the MHSAA there was no evidence that the virus was spread at their events. Also there was no evidence that the virus spread through AAU events or any community wide outbreaks in those settings. Now there have been student athletes that have gone into quarantine don’t get me wrong because they were exposed or came close to someone who was exposed but there hasn’t been really any evidence of a community wide outbreak surrounding school sports.
It makes you think that Gordon was behind all of this all along.
In Ohio with their winter sports, they are going with everything as planned.
Whitmer forced the MHSAA’s hand in the spring as she shut spring sports down through executive orders which caused mental anguish for kids.
The MHSAA Executive Council and Uyl put together a plan that once the order was lifted they would resume all practices starting December 9th. Volleyball would have quarterfinals play on December 15th and would have the semifinals and finals on December 17th thru 19th at the Kellogg Center in Battle Creek. Girls Swimming and Diving would be conducted on December 22nd and 23rd with three high schools hosting one meet. Football regionals would be played December 15th and 16th followed by the State semifinals on December 21st and 22nd and the State Finals at Ford Field on December 28th and 29th.
Girls Basketball has already been in practice while the rest of winter sports haven’t started tryouts yet.
All of this could change if coronavirus case numbers don’t go down which would make this decision by Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun that much more heartbreaking and if they were to extend the epidemic order past December 8th.
I read an article about high school sports and mental health and it was a very interesting read. Mental health is not a one size fits all approach. As I read this article in the Indianapolis Star, there was a study out that said that 65 percent reported symptoms of depression and 36 percent showed that student athletes having moderate or severe anxiety.
Indiana assistant director for school mental health Kristy Eaton said in the article that “We need to be aware that depression and anxiety and feelings of isolation our kids and student-athletes are very much at risk right now. Research tells us that about one out of every five kids sitting in a classroom has a diagnosed or a diagonosable mental health condition. Add the stressors of the unknowns about COVID and you have a recipe for kids that may really start struggling with their own mental health.”
Mental health is not a one size fits all approach. Some kids respond to it differently than others but it can be very dangerous if something is taken away. “It can manifest in moodiness and irritability or an angry outburst often underlying that is fear. I don’t know what is going to happen next with this COVID thing. Sleep and hygiene issues can crop up. Same thing with eating issues, overeating-refusing to eat. You might see substance abuse. You might see or hear talk of suicide. Those are some of the warning signs that kids have gotten into a situation where it’s likely that they’re going to need some professional help” Eaton concluded.
Playing school sports helps the mental mind and has given student athletes a sense of normalcy but if sports were taken away it could lead to more bad than good. Playing sports also helps develop time management skills and team bonding.
I noticed that in Uyl and the MHSAA Executive Council. They looked at the mental health aspect of student athletes which is why they went ahead and kept things as normal as possible in August with no changes along with mask wearing and social distancing. Most student athletes are doing the right thing. I have a lot more questions for Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun. If they (Whitmer, Gordon, or Khaldun) want on my podcast, I’ll let them on or if they want to have a conversation, I have an email if they want to explain why school sports were paused and the mental health aspects that student athletes face, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is no doubt that student athletes belong in a school setting building relationships and bonds. Detroit University-Detroit Jesuit boys basketball coach Pat Donnelly wrote on Twitter a very interesting tweet that I really hope Gordon, Khaldun, and Whitmer read. “OPEN, Gyms for individual exercise. CLOSED, Organized sports, and fitness centers so why is it that we can’t host individual workouts for HS (high school) athletes??? Physical health, mental health, future opportunities (college.) And yes they can wear a mask and be socially distant.”
That’s a very good question. The MHSAA and State put the mask and social distancing guidelines in the fall. Schools and student-athletes have followed them to the bone to keep their seasons intact.
Maybe Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun didn’t think it through before deciding to shut sports down for three weeks or maybe they don’t care about the student athlete or their mental and emotional well being.
Maybe it’s time for Whitmer, Gordon, and Khaldun to explain the emotional and mental aspect that this is taking its toll on our student athletes. I would like to see more of that in the future.
The Indy Star article.
MHSAA Restart article.
Posted by Saginaw Bay at 6:07 PM
Top Five Games:
By Sammy Taormina
Romeo at Stoney Creek: The Cougars are having a special season and made everyone in the State know who they were after pulling off a huge 28-21 victory over Chippewa Valley last week behind a 250 yards and three scores off 44 carries for running back Cam Burford. Burford also got an interception last week as well. Ryan Echout has been outstanding at quarterback as well for the Cougars and the Stoney Creek defense has been stout under defensive coordinator Gary Griffith. This will be the first meeting between these two neighborhood schools. Romeo has been a weird team to figure out this season but they are peaking at the right time. The Bulldogs has won three straight games including a controversial 15-14 upset win at Macomb Dakota last week behind a controversial fourth and goal by running back Brian St. Clair that according to the replays that I saw was that he threw the football into the end zone when his forward progress should had been stopped but the football was recovered by wide receiver Luke Rolfs in the end zone. The officials gave the touchdown to Romeo which upset many Macomb Dakota players, coaches, and fans and thus putting Romeo in the district finals. The Bulldogs are a hardworking team very similar to the Cougars but they are riding a ton of momentum but so is Stoney Creek. The running back battle should be very interesting between Burford and St. Clair. The quarterback matchup between Logan Rolfs and Echout is also going to be interesting as well. The coaching matchup is not too bad as well between Curt Rienas and Nick Merlo. This should be a very interesting matchup at Stoney Creek.
Groves at Warren Mott: This is going to be the first meeting between the Falcons and the Marauders. Warren Mott is coming off a 49-14 beat down of Berkley behind wide receiver KJ Allen whom had five catches for 128 yards and three touchdowns while running back N Christian Gilbert had six carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears. They also have a very good quarterback throwing to them as well in James Chaney. He had three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns himself against Berkley. Chaney is more than capable of putting numbers himself in the zone read. He had 29 carries for 188 yards and two rushing touchdowns and was five for nine for 46 yards and a passing score earlier in the season against Utica. Groves is coming off a 30-21 victory over arch rival Seaholm behind the play of quarterback Kaleb Garner threw for two touchdown passes both to wide receiver Orion Kendra. The Falcons also have Jaden Mangham for Warren Mott to deal with as well. The coaching matchup is very interesting between Brendan Flaherty and Tom Milonov. This is going to be a very interesting district finals.
Oak Park at Wyandotte: The Knights have earned their first two game winning streak of the season after beating Detroit University-Detroit Jesuit 27-21 last week. This is going to be the first meeting since 2012 with Wyandotte. The Bears beat Oak Park 10-6 in the 2012 regional finals which motivates Coach Greg Carter. Wyandotte has been rolling people. They earned a 38-13 victory over Detroit Renaissance last week. The Bears feature a very good quarterback in Jalen Pitchford. Pitchford has had a monster year this season on both sides of the football (also plays on defense.) Wyandotte also has a ton of talented players as well in running back Logan McGraw and wide receivers/defensive backs Donavan Canterbury and Richard Clark. They are well coached under Coach Ron Adams. Oak Park is back healthy and they has their fair share of athletes as well in running back Davion Primm along with quarterback James Burnley and linemen Rayshawn Benny, among others. This should be very interesting in Wyandotte on Friday night.
North Farmington at South Lyon: North Farmington made a huge statement last week behind the play of quarterback Jacob Bousamra and running back Justus Whitehorn whom were both very impressive combining for five touchdowns in their 44-28 victory over Fenton last week. South Lyon is coming off an impressive 42-37 home victory over Walled Lake Western. The Lions are a very young team which they weren’t expected to do much but they have grown up in a hurry. This will be the seventh meeting all time between these two teams with South Lyon holding a 4-2 season series edge and the first meeting since 1995 when both teams were in the Western Lakes Activities Association. It is shaping up to be a very interesting game in South Lyon.
West Bloomfield at Sterling Heights Stevenson: This is going to be one of the most hyped matchups in the State on Friday night. Who doesn’t love a good OAA Red vs MAC Red matchup??? It will be the first meeting between these two teams. The Titans have a ton of experience back from a team that made the Division One State Semifinals last season. We don’t know about the health of Jordan Ramsey. Ramsey did not play in their 19-14 victory over Southfield Arts and Tech. He hasn’t played in a few weeks due to injury but Sterling Heights Stevenson has some very talented players to fill the void for Ramsey in Jordan Kwaitkowski, Tony Schumate, and quarterback Biagio Madonna. Kwaitkowski and Schumate combined for 200 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Warriors. Kwaitkowski caught a pass for a score in that game as well. The Titans have heard a ton about the Lakers and especially running back Donovan Edwards. Edwards had two scores in a 56-3 blowout of Troy on Friday night in the Swamp but they saw their four game shutout streak snapped with a Ryan Peluso field goal. The quarterback matchup is going to be very interesting between Alex Short and Madonna. The running back battle should be the key matchup between Edwards, Dillion Tatum, and Mekhi Elam. The battle in the trenches are also going to be interesting between Michigan commit Giovanni El-Hadi going up against one of the best defensive lines in the State led by Amir Herring and Brandon Davis-Swan. The coaching matchup is also going to be very interesting as well between Coach Ron Bellamy and Coach Justin Newcomb. There are going to be a ton of storylines heading into this game at Runkel Field on Friday night.
Top Five Games:
By Sammy Taormina
Chippewa Valley at Stoney Creek: This is going to be the Cougars biggest challenge of the season when they host Chippewa Valley on Friday night. The Big Reds come into this game riding a ton of confidence after coming back from 14-0 down to beat a very good Utica Eisenhower squad 21-14. They have a ton of experience led by quarterback Ryan Schuester along with running back Ryan Hawkins and top wide receiver Cephas Harris. Also Chippewa Valley is well coached under Coach Scott Merchant. Stoney Creek features their fair share of experience as well in quarterback Ryan Echout, running back Cam Buford, and running back Jon Fogler. They too have a proven coach in Nick Merlo. This is a perfect opportunity for the Cougars to show that they mean business especially against a proven MAC Red opponent like Chippewa Valley.
Groves at Seaholm: This is the Battle of Birmingham Part II. Think of what Caleb Knoer did against Jaden Mangham a few weeks ago stripping him of the football in the endzone in a 21-21 game in the fourth quarter and forcing a touchback. The next drive the Maples scored and earned a 35-28 victory over the Falcons in Beverly Hills on one pass attempt no less. Groves has long been waiting for revenge against Seaholm. The Maples have won the last two in this rivalry. It’s going to be very interesting in the Maple Forest.
Oak Park at Detroit University-Detroit Jesuit: The Knights picked up their first win of the season going into Grosse Pointe South and stunning the Blue Devils 35-27 last week. I think the return of ReShawn Benny has been huge for Coach Greg Carter’s team along with the improved play of quarterback James Burnley. Oak Park has played a brutal schedule playing the likes of West Bloomfield, Clarkston, Lake Orion, Southfield Arts and Tech, Oxford, and Groves and to do that against a MAC Red team in Grosse Pointe South is a statement. Detroit University-Detroit Jesuit does have some athletes as well and they played Lake Orion tough losing 7-6 in week three. The Cubs beat Grosse Pointe North 28-14 last week in Grosse Pointe. It’s shaping up to be a very interesting game between two schools that know each other well.
Grand Blanc at Clarkston: The Wolves have been rolling all season long but they were tested last week by Oxford and their time possession game. Clarkston had to survive 21-7 last week. Grand Blanc needed a double reverse, a fake punt for a touchdown, and a bad snap to earn a 28-14 victory over Lake Orion last week. The Bobcats have a prolific offense of balance and speed. The Wolves are huge up front and can beat you in different ways. Clarkston’s pass defense should be tested in this game.
Southfield Arts and Tech at Sterling Heights Stevenson: I wonder how the latest episode of “The MAC Attack with Zach and Zack” is going to feel about how Oak Park stunned Grosse Pointe South. Could it happen again with another OAA Red team beating another MAC Red team on the road??? It’s possible. The Titans have playoff experience but the Warriors have been a Jekyll and Hyde team. Southfield Arts and Tech has athletes like quarterback Isiah Marshall, running back RaeQuan Lee, wide receivers Jeff Bowens and Robert Army. Sterling Heights Stevenson has size up front and proven playmakers. With what happened to Grosse Pointe South the Titans needs to be on upset alert. Southfield Arts and Tech should come into this game playing with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Top Five Games: By Sammy Taormina
Royal Oak at Berkley: I remember chatting with Berkley coach Sean Shields about how his team gears up to play Royal Oak. They did not play each other in the regular season due to COVID but they will get that chance to play each other. The Bears have had a great season but two straight losses to close out the season hurts. The Ravens have struggled but they played better against Fraser last week. Royal Oak has won the last two meetings over Berkley by a combined 54-7. This is shaping up to be a very interesting game. I wonder if “The Curb” is on the line in this game???
Adams at Rochester: The Falcons have had a great season, first league title and undefeated season since 1993. Rochester will have a chance to snap another painful streak when they host Adams. The Falcons haven’t beaten the Highlanders since 1996. Adams has had a tough season but they are still Adams. The Highlanders have played a much tougher schedule than Rochester. I wonder how Falcons alumni’s Dan Strickradt and Keith Dunlap are feeling right now seeing what is happening with Rochester. This is shaping up to be a very good game, could this be history in the making???
Groves at Avondale: The Yellow Jackets sent a huge statement by blowing out Bloomfield Hills 37-9 on Friday night. Avondale earned themselves a home game with Groves on Friday night at Dick Bye Field. The Falcons were blown out 40-14 by Stoney Creek last week sending them to 3-3. Groves has played a much tougher schedule but the Yellow Jackets have been red hot in the last three weeks. There should be plenty of athleticism on display in Auburn Hills.
Waterford Kettering at North Farmington: This is a very interesting matchup between the Raiders and Captains. Both coaches know each other real well from their college days in Ken Schmidt and Jon Herstein. Waterford Kettering is a resilient group which included a comeback over arch rival Waterford Mott beating them for the second straight season 34-26. North Farmington forfeited their game with Seaholm last week because of a power outage. The Captains and the Raiders were supposed to play in week one but due to COVID that did not happen. North Farmington won 35-30 at home over Waterford Kettering last season but the Captains almost came back and won that game. Waterford Kettering has something to prove. This is a very dangerous game for the Raiders.
Lake Orion at Grand Blanc: The Bobcats have been rolling in the Saginaw Valley and they picked up a huge win over Saline 14-13 last week. Grand Blanc has had a history of collapsing in the playoffs typically against OAA schools or Davison or Lapeer. The Bobcats have a very good quarterback in Ty Brotebeck and a very good running back in Elijah Jackson-Anderson. The defense has had a great year as well. Grand Blanc wants to prove to everyone that they belong which is their chip. The Dragons have played tougher competition than Grand Blanc. They have struggled offensively this season against very good teams but the defense is stout. Lake Orion has lost to two top ten state ranked teams in Clarkston and West Bloomfield. They remind me a lot of Utica Eisenhower, no offense but a stout defense. This game should be a low scoring defensive game. The coaching matchup is very interesting between Coach Clint Alexander and John Blackstock. This is shaping up to be an interesting game as mentioned.