By David Fleet
On a late summer Friday afternoon, Brandon Blackhawk Varsity football slot receiver Brayton MacQueen was not at practice or preparing for the teams second game of the season.
Rather, the 6-foot-1-inch 180 pound junior was on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol along with hundreds of other players, parents and coaches hoping just to play football this fall.
“Not playing this fall is very disappointing,” said Brayton. “I was looking forward to playing my junior year—it just was taken away. We put a lot of work in this season starting in June and now it’s gone.”
On Aug. 28, MacQueen and others were pushing back after the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced they were moving the fall football season to the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. On the last weekend of August which many high school football programs, like Brandon were set to kick off the 2020 season, a “Let Them Play” rally in Lansing was held.
The peaceful rally, which lasted from about 4 -7 p.m. attracted supporters from across the state including the Upper Peninsula.
“You could see the disappointment in their face they where not playing,” said Mike MacQueen, Brandon Middle School coach and father of Brayton who along with his wife Kris attended the rally on Friday. “We all put our message out there to go the rally and the community responded.”
The rally was not just about the high school football season, said Kris MacQueen.
“It was all sports including swimming, band, cheerleading,” said Kris. “It’s the fall sports which could get pushed back to spring. Many student athletes play more than one sport and now they overlap and it cuts them all short. We are here in Lansing fighting for the 19 Brandon seniors on the team and for possible scholarships up for grabs.”
Some of the students are counting on football or other high school sport for possible college funding, she added.
“We rallied for not just the Brandon Seniors, but for all the kids across Michigan,” she said. “Another concern is the spring weather here in Michigan. If we play the spring there’s always the chance that we’ll have snow which could produce more injuries and even a shorter season. Especially in the northern communities they often can’t play in the spring due to the weather.”
The rally speakers included players, coaches, superintendents, parents and athletic directors, she said.
“I watched high school football on television being played in surrounding states this past weekend,” said Mike MacQueen. “From Texas to Illinois they are playing safely. The football stands were full, they had masks on and practiced social distancing. They should consider a percentage capacity in the stands. We don’t want to play if the parents and fans can’t come. They could do it safely.”
At 6-foot-3-inch, 165 pounds Junior Brandon Blackhawk Micah Miller, was set to be the starting quarterback this fall.
“Our season in the spring will be much shorter,” said Miller, who started at QB as a sophomore. “That will limit our yards and touchdowns which will hurt our stats, reducing our chances for scholarships. We can play this fall, just follow the protocol and necessary precautions. It would not be a problem.”
On Wednesday, Mark Uyl, executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, in response to Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s comments on Wednesday that she will be speaking soon on the status of high school athletics this fall.
“The MHSAA has been in constant contact with the Governor’s office seeking answers and direction for fall sports under Executive Order 160 since that order was issued, expressing the urgency for these decisions on behalf of our member school students, staff and families. This direct communication will continue and we will take Governor Whitmer at her word today that decisions will be made and shared with everyone very soon. We will have no other comment or media availability until the Governor addresses these athletic questions.”