North Farmington’s Noah Rioux (26) makes a tackle during the Raiders’ state playoff win over Fenton.
North Farmington’s Noah Rioux (26) makes a tackle during the Raiders’ state playoff win over Fenton. (Jack Mumford)

North Farmington lost 50-22 on the road to Traverse City Central on Jan. 9 in the regional finals.

Noah Rioux described his first season with the North Farmington High School football team in five words.

“It was quite a ride,” said the sophomore fullback/middle linebacker who played in each of the Raiders’ three state playoff games, mostly on special teams.

The ride Rioux referenced was highlighted by North Farmington’s furthest advance in the state playoffs since 1978.

Also, there was the Raiders’ forfeit win over South Lyon on Nov. 13 in the Division 2 district finals, followed by a 64-day wait before North Farmington lost 50-22 on the road to Traverse City Central on Jan. 9 in the regional finals.

Noah Rioux
Noah Rioux

The forfeit and layoff were because of the COVID-19 pandemic, of course.

The state football playoffs resumed this month after games and practices were halted Nov. 15 — one day after district championship games — because the Michigan High School Athletic Association and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services came up with a pilot program of rapid antigen coronavirus tests for players, coaches and others directly involved with each team.

“Testing actually was easy. Everyone went to a station, and the results came back in about 20 minutes,” Rioux said.

The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder said he tested negative three or four times.

Rioux is by far in the majority in the pilot testing program. The MDHHS reported last week that 99.6% of tests among high school football, volleyball and girls swimming and diving athletes in post-season competition done since Dec. 30 came back negative.

Restarting the season wasn’t easy for North Farmington and the 71 other football teams that were still alive in the playoffs.

Practice resumed Dec. 21, then was halted after one day for a week so teams could get up to speed with the antigen testing.

“We were given workouts to do by our coaches and told to do our best to stay in shape while the season was stopped so we’d be fit when the state playoff games resumed,” Rioux said.

After outscoring Waterford Kettering and Fenton 88-35 in its first two state playoff games and advancing thanks to its forfeit win over South Lyon, North Farmington ran into a Traverse City Central team that was averaging 48.4 points per game coming into the regional finals.

Traverse City Central outscored North Farmington 44-12 in the final 22 minutes to win its first regional championship since 1988.

North Farmington finished 7-3 under second-year coach Jon Herstein. Traverse City Central moved on to the state semifinals with a 9-1 record.

Rioux was brought up to the North Farmington varsity football team midway through the late-starting regular season. He saw action on the Raiders’ kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return and placekick block special teams.

Doug Lemberg, North Farmington’s running backs and outside linebackers coach, said Rioux’s energy, attitude, work ethic and physicality are the reasons why he got the call to the varsity.

“A player is brought up to the varsity only when he’s ready physically and mentally and can contribute to the team,” Lemberg said. “Noah fit the bill. He was ready.”

Rioux hopes to play varsity basketball and lacrosse this winter and spring for North Farmington after being on sub-varsity teams as a freshman.

After doing online learning during the first semester of this school year, Rioux will be on a hybrid in-person and online schedule in the second semester.

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