Ethan Williams-Nick Fetzer

The South team’s Ethan Williams, center, cuts between the North team’s Ryan Hunt, left, and Nick Fetzer during the annual Santa Fund Soccer Classic at Greater Johnstown High School in Johnstown, PA., Thursday, Nov.21, 2019.

Due to rising COVID-19 cases in the region and new restrictions on scholastic athletics from the state and from local conferences, the Santa Fund Soccer Classic has been postponed, organizers said Wednesday.

The high school all-star event was scheduled to be held Thursday evening at Trojan Stadium in Johnstown.

Organizers hope to hold the girls and boys games at a later date, perhaps in the spring.

"I feel the disappointment for these senior soccer players," said Brian Vuletich of the Greater Johnstown School District.

"For many of them, these Santa Fund Soccer Classic games represent one last opportunity to play together after coming up from AYSO through high school. Being selected to play in the game has become an accomplishment that players are proud of. However, under the circumstances the decision is the right one for the safety of all involved."

He added: "Since soccer is played outdoors and almost year-round, we are committed to rescheduling when safety permits."

On Wednesday, the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference announced that it had delayed winter sports competitions until January.

Also, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association announced further restrictions for competitions, including mask wearing at all times – including for players while on the field or court.

Several area schools shifted recently to fully remote learning, meaning athletes would not be eligible to play in the all-star games.

Chip Minemyer, editor of The Tribune-Democrat, said players who had been chosen for the games will still receive their commemorative jerseys and protective masks with the Santa Fund logo.

"It's very disappointing to get to this point and have to postpone the games," Minemyer said. "But we have to act in accordance with state and local guidelines and we have to do everything in the spirit of keeping the players and other participants safe."

In addition to showcasing the top senior players in the region, the Santa Fund Soccer Classic serves as a fundraiser for The Tribune-Democrat's Santa Fund, which provides gifts at Christmas for area families.

The Santa Fund will distribute presents again this season – from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial.

Donations to help the effort may be made online through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies at cfalleghenies.org (click "donate" and search for "Santa Fund"); or mailed to: Santa Fund, c/o Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, 216 Franklin Street, Suite 400, Johnstown, PA 15901.

"Even though the games are postponed," Vuletich said, "The Tribune-Democrat Santa Fund will continue to bring joy and happiness to children of our area."

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