Volleyball, football seasons in Hibbing are put on hold

HIBBING — The Hibbing High School football and volleyball teams were cruising right along with their seasons, but there was a lingering thought in the background — would they be able to finish their seasons.

When the cases of COVID-19 started going up would that put a damper on their plans?

When the Hibbing School Board met in an emergency meeting last Thursday, those seasons were going to be put on hold.

The board decided to go to distance learning, which, ultimately, ended the fall season for both football and volleyball.

That decision didn’t exactly come as a surprise for either football coach Shaun Howard and volleyball coach Lauren Peterson.

“I kind of thought it would happen, but I was hoping for the last week of November, after Thanksgiving,” Peterson said. “I expected it at some point, so I took it in stride.”

Howard had to break it to his players the day of the Bluejackets last game of the regular season against Grand Rapids, at 3:30 p.m., in the locker room at Cheever Field, just before they left for the game.

“I wanted to make sure that they found out from us,” Howard said. “I don’t know what else we could have done differently. That feeling was always in the back of our minds, but it was hard telling the kids. They sunk their heads. We weren’t totally prepared to do that.

“It was a little hard, and it was a little emotional for me. The seniors and juniors were in shock, and not ready for it. The seniors were looking forward to our playoff game, and having a chance to win that playoff game.”

Peterson also informed her players but most of them knew about it before their game with Esko Thursday.

“They found out before I had the chance to tell them,” Peterson said. “I told them on the bus, and I asked if they had any questions for me. I told them it would be a two-week restart.

“Our seniors told the team to play like it was their last game. They were emotional, but depending on how this goes, we might be able to do sections. If all goes well, we could come back if the community does their part. We’ll take day-by-day.”

For football, the season is over. Hibbing was scheduled to play Duluth Denfeld today at Public Schools Stadium.

Howard would have liked one last chance to put this team on the field.

“For me, you’re used to having a playoff game,” Howard said. “It either gives you a chance to move on, or your season is done. The way it ended, it’s a weird feeling. I stood on the field in Rapids wishing we could do something different to move on. We’re done.”

The season didn’t end the way Howard wanted it to, but he did say that there was some progress made this season.

“Everyone will look at the record, but our senior leadership was huge,” Howard said. “They stepped up and kept us going when we lost kids to COVID and quarantine. They stepped up more than I thought they would.

“We have things to build on. We started two freshmen in the offensive line against Grand Rapids. We have a lot of young players that if we have a normal offseason, we could potentially have a much-better year next year, record-wise.”

For volleyball, if there is a two-week restart, the Bluejackets would return in time for the first round of playoffs. Right now, Hibbing will miss four regular-season games.

“Dec. 1 would be our first section game,” Peterson said. “Some teams are still playing, so I’m hopeful. At the same time, I don’t know. I want them to play. It’s for the kids. If you take it from that perspective, we wanted to give them a normal year of school.

“That’s what we want, but that has to come from all of us. They took it hard. I’m trying to stay positive for them.”

If the Hibbing volleyball team isn’t able to finish out the season, Peterson said there were positive changes as well.

“I enjoyed my first year,” Peterson said. “I changed what I decided to do, and I’ll keep that approach, like drilling the fundamentals and getting the program to expand. I have to get back to the younger girls, getting them to start earlier.”

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