BILLINGS — Another summer pastime has been lost for the year.
The Class B Big Sky All-Star Football Game, which is annually played in Billings, was canceled on Friday night due to the novel coronavirus. The decision was announced on Saturday by game director Chad Sealey of Roundup.
The game, pitting the best of this year's graduating high school seniors in Class B in a North vs. South setting, was to be played on June 13 at Herb Klindt Field at Rocky Mountain College. Players were scheduled to report on June 10 for practices and would have been housed at the Rocky dorms.
The Class B game joins the growing list of canceled all-star events, including the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl, the Midland Roundtable Montana-Wyoming All-Star basketball series, the Montana East-West Shrine Game, the Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star Game, the 6-Man All-Star Game and the Shodair Soccer Classic.
The Badlands Bowl was scratched on Friday. The reason for all the cancellations — health and wellness concerns due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The Class B game was the last one for the football all-star contests to be called off.
"We were just hopeful that maybe by this date things would have changed a little bit as far as the number of people in groups and those types of things," said Sealey. "Since they haven't, we can't keep kids on campus and keep the social distancing and obviously when you are playing football, you are pretty close to each other. It just doesn't meet the requirements."
Montana is currently in a phased effort to reopen the state implemented by Gov. Steve Bullock after a stay-at-home order that began on March 28 ended on April 26 for individuals. According to phase 1 guidelines announced April 22 for organized youth activities, groups of 10 will need to follow appropriate physical distancing. In the governor’s plan, phase 2 with a date to be determined, allows for the cap on the number of people at gatherings to reach 50.
Sealey said organizers recently came to the conclusion that the Class B game would probably have to be canceled.
"We probably knew it was going to happen for the last couple of weeks," he told 406mtsports.com on Saturday. "But we were hopeful it wouldn't. We just made the final decision last night."
With the Class B game only featuring Treasure State players, unlike the Montana-Wyoming All-Star Basketball Series and the Badlands Bowl with Montana and North Dakota players, there was hope that things would improve enough to allow for the game as a travel quarantine would not come into play. However, the clock won as it was time to make a decision.
“We didn’t have to travel out of state, we were kind of hoping that would be a factor in our favor,” Sealey said. “In the end, we can’t wait two more weeks. There are too many contracts to sign and uniforms to formalize and those types of things. We are better off making the decision now.”
For Sealey, who first coached in the game 22 years ago when he was teaching in Fort Benton, it was hard to be one of the board members to make the decision to cancel. The Roundup superintendent has been on the Class B All-Star Game board for 13 years and this would have been his seventh as director.
“It was (hard). I feel bad for all the seniors around the state that have had a lot of things changed on them,” he said. “Whether it’s track season, golf or tennis. Those kids’ graduations won’t be the same. A lot of traditions are different this spring. That makes it difficult. You’d really like to keep some normalcy for them. We were kind of hoping the B Game would be the thing for 72 of those kids to be kind of normal for late spring and early summer.”
Last year, the North defeated the South 41-34 at Herb Klindt Field. The North leads the series 16-15.
Rosters for this season’s game were not finalized.
“When COVID hit, it caused some real shakeup because kids that maybe were going to play in the Shrine Game might have chosen to play in the B Game. Those things kind of happen,” Sealey said. “Players sometimes decide which games they want to play in, or check to see if they can play in two, so rosters weren’t really finalized.”
Like the other all-star games, postponing wasn’t an option as many players had other commitments later in the summer.
Sealey said the plan is to bring the game back on its normal second Saturday of June time slot at Rocky next year.
“We are kind of at a point where it’s handed down from one group to the next at each school and kids help sell the game and have a great time,” he said.