Pilot Football Remains Optimistic Despite Season Being Halted


Postseason play paused for three weeks. Just like that.

When the news was announced Sunday by the MHSAA, it was a devastating blow for the De La Salle Pilots, which, two days prior, had just beaten Port Huron for their 10th district championship in program history. 

But, the halt in play was deemed necessary by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the state.

Fall tournaments for girls volleyball and girls swimming & diving have also been put on hold, while all winter practices and competitions that were scheduled to start over the next three weeks have been ordered to pause, as well. 

Pilots head football coach Dan Rohn organized a coaches' meeting immediately after the announcement was made Sunday, and then held a program-wide meeting Monday, involving administration, counselors and players' parents.

"We wanted to make sure we covered every base, and we tried to answer any question any parent, any player had," Rohn said. "And I didn't want to make any rash decisions. So, we met with our team yesterday. And we said, 'you know what, we're going to stay extremely optimistic about an opportunity to play in three weeks. We're going to stay focused on what we can control.'" 

The next directive for Rohn was to figure out how to "continue to move forward" in this current climate, with his team being unable to meet in person -- a harsh reality for a team whose bond had grown over the last month.

He and his coaching staff proceeded to create a Google Classroom for the team, featuring daily conditioning and weight-training assignments plus "EDDs," or every day drills -- all a part of keeping his team ready to play. 

"We put together a pretty detailed schedule for them. Just like we would do if we were practicing, and to let them know if they give us the call on Dec. 6 that we can roll out to the field on Dec. 7, we will be ready mentally and physically," Rohn said.

Rohn believes his team was just starting to hit its stride, too. 

"I was extremely excited about where this football team was going, and we had just played three good football games -- offensively and defensively," Rohn commented. "I mean, we're averaging over 40 points a game right now in the playoffs. We're giving up less than a touchdown, and our kids are buying into all our philosophies."

The Purple and Gold have been absolutely dominant through their first three postseason contests in 2020.

They've outscored their opponents, 129-20.

There's been no clearer sign that the foundation of a Rohn-run program, which plays its best football come November, has started to be built. 

"As I said back in March, my goal has always been and will always be to be the best football team we can be in November," Rohn said. "And this year, more than ever before with our schedule, with COVID, with all the restrictions, we spent so much time -- I tell everybody 25 percent of my job this year is figuring out COVID and regulations and restrictions. And it takes away from getting us prepared. You know, other coaches and programs didn't have some of these new challenges. But, we did, and we got through them." 

Nothing, even this impromptu three-week layoff, is going to take the focus of Rohn and his team away from their goal of winning a state championship once the season resumes.

"We're going to stay focused. We're going to stay driven on what our goals are. We've been talking all year long ... our goal has been simple. Control the controllables. We're going to control any situation we can control and make the best of it," Rohn explained.