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Area prep sports realigned after Governor’s restrictions announced

FAIRMONT — The already coronavirus-condensed Minnesota high school fall sports seasons became even shorter following the restrictions set forth by Gov. Tim Walz’s public address speech Wednesday night.

In an effort to bend the state’s recent fast-rising COVID-19 numbers downward, Walz announced that adult and youth sports — along with fitness centers and gyms — will close down for four weeks starting at 11:59 p.m. Friday night.

Another restriction mentioned in Walz’s speech centered around restaurants and bars only being able to offer take-out orders during the same time span.

Walz pointed to youth sports as one of the state’s “top sources of (COVID-19) outbreaks” as the 5,102 confirmed new cases — including 67 deaths — Wednesday pushed Minnesota’s total to 242,053.

“We need to take a pause,” Walz said in reference to the month-long sanctions that take effect during Saturday’s wee hours of the morning.

In response to the soon-to-be implemented measures, the Minnesota State High School League’s prep football tournament committees and numerous high school athletic directors moved quickly Wednesday to modify the formats of the sectional gridiron playoffs that originally kicked off Tuesday night, and the final handful of regular-season volleyball matches during the next 48 hours.

“Our football tournament committee decided to have the top two seeds play for the sectional championship, so we moved the games originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon to Friday night,” said Blue Earth Area High School athletic director and Section 3AAA football coordinator Rob Norman. “We gave the other two teams that were in the (sectional) semifinals the option to play a third-place game Friday night if both teams agreed.”

In Section 2AA football action, current No. 2-state ranked and defending champion Blue Earth Area (6-0) will play host to No. 2-seeded Maple River (5-2) for the crown at 7 p.m. Friday night at Wilson Field in Blue Earth.

St. Clair/Loyola, who was originally slated to face the No. 1-seeded and undefeated Bucs at 1 p.m. Saturday, travels to Medford for a 7 p.m. third-place game Friday night.

In Section 3AAA gridiron action, No. 2-seeded Sibley East travels to top-seeded Luverne for a 7 p.m. title clash Friday night, while No. 5-seeded Fairmont is tentatively scheduled to hit the road to Swearingen Field in Jackson on Friday night for a third-place contest with the No. 3-seeded Jackson County Central Huskies.

“The third-place game is optional, and we haven’t confirmed our game with Jackson to this point,” Fairmont athletic director and head football coach Mat Mahoney said Wednesday night. “We’ll continue to work on seeing if we can make it happen Friday night.”

Jackson County Central defeated Worthington, 28-6, in Tuesday night’s sectional quarterfinal, while Fairmont received a bye due to the Tri-City United School District’s COVID-19 concerns.

Jackson County Central defeated Fairmont, 22-7, last Thursday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont to retain the Old Oaken Bucket rivalry prize.

In area volleyball regular-season action, the Blue Earth Area Bucs will play host to the Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguars at 7:15 p.m. tonight in Blue Earth.

Blue Earth Area was originally slated to play St. James Area tonight in St. James, while the Jaguars were set to square off against Martin County West tonight in Trimont. Both St. James Area and Martin County West experienced COVID-19 concerns Wednesday, therefore, allowing the Bucs and Jaguars to fill the voids in each volleyball program’s schedule tonight.

Due to the statewide restrictions taking effect Saturday, the MSHSL’s sectional volleyball tournaments will not be held.

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