When the MHSAA Division 1 football playoff schedule was announced and Huron learned it had to travel all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the first round, the River Rats couldn’t have cared less. They would travel to Mars if it meant getting to play a football game.
Huron’s 2020 season has been a mess from before the first scheduled kick off. Like every team, the River Rats got a late start because of state restrictions from the pandemic. Early season games were cancelled. And then after the MHSAA approved the start of the football season, Ann Arbor school officials shut them down another week along with Skyline and Pioneer.
Huron opened the season with a 43-19 loss at Saline but then won at Pioneer 18-8. Then, the River Rats took another hit when a breakout of COVID-19 within the program closed down their season for two weeks. The next time they took the field was on Oct. 23 at Flat Rock, a game they easily won 56-8.
Huron head coach Antaiwn Mack said Wednesday night the “kids are just excited to play football.”
And they don’t care if they have to ride a bus for three hours to play – as long as they get to play.
The River Rats couldn’t play or practice during the two weeks of mandatory isolation, but did have zoom virtual workouts with the coaching staff and their strength coach. They also watched game film through zoom to help identify areas that needed improvement.
“The guys were down when situation happened and we tried to keep them in good spirits as much as possible,” Mack says. “The biggest thing they were bothered by is that we could have been 4-1 had we kept playing. The seniors wanted to make history and get to 4-1 and they were confident we could have done it so that was hard.”
The River Rats were scheduled to play Ypsilanti when the two-week shutdown began. The Grizzlies were unable to find an opponent so technically they defeated Huron 2-0 by way of a forfeit. Huron’s next scheduled game was an SEC crossover with Adrian. The Maples found a different opponent so the River Rats did not lose by forfeit.
A 4-1 record would have meant playing at home instead of Kalamazoo.
But Mack and the River Rats aren’t looking back. They aren’t interested in what could have been – what should have been. They are looking ahead and focused on playing at Kalamazoo Central on Friday night.
“Everyone is back on track and excited to be back and glad that everyone is OK,” Mack says. “We all want to keep our families safe and healthy. We’ve had a good week of practice so far. Everyone is healthy and ready to go.”
Mack says his players “deserve” a chance to play.
“They’ve earned this chance,” he said. “They are doing everything they are being asked. They are practicing social distancing, wearing their masks and staying safe. If they do these things then I think they deserve to play.”
The winner of the Huron-Kalamazoo Central game will play the winner of Pioneer-Saline next Friday.