EBENSBURG – Esports at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School was always the dream for senior Ely Blaisdell.
For years, Blaisdell was among a small, but enthusiastic group of students looking to bring esports onto Husky Hill.
On Tuesday, the school debuted an on-campus esports room with Blaisdell as excited as he could be about the new digs.
“As a school, we got everything together and we got it to happen,” Blaisdell said. “Working on this was really fun.”
The room, which students got to see on Tuesday while trying out the computers and games, features three rows of gaming machines. It is the first dedicated esports facility inside an area school building, according to The Esport Company’s founder and chief marketing officer Seth Mason, who is aiding in the launch of numerous programs across the region for play in the company’s upcoming spring league.
A community effort played a big part in making the dedicated esports room a reality.
“We definitely get a lot of help from our donors,” Bishop Carroll esports coach R.J. Clark said. “The kids have been asking for this for a long time, so we got all the pieces to fall into place. We were just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
“We reached out to The Esport Company, and they put us in contact with St. Francis. They helped us go right into it.”
The Huskies will compete in “Rocket League,” an arcade-style soccer game where gamers use vehicles to strike a ball that is much larger than the cars; and “Overwatch,” a team-based multiplayer game with map-specific objectives.
An esports program is another way to allow the school to let its students shine and build camaraderie, according to Head of School Stephen Cotchen.
“It speaks to our resilience to continue to grow programs as a small Catholic school,” Cotchen said. “It’s important to our kids. We’ve got to find niches for all of our kids, and some of these kids are multi-sport athletes while some prefer doing other things, but they can all come together and play some games and be together with each other.”
Play for the The Esport Company’s spring 2021 league is scheduled to start this coming Monday with a six-week regular season and an eight-team playoff tournament beginning on April 12. The championship week matches – pending COVID-19 restrictions – are tentatively scheduled to take place on May 1 in the esports room at St. Francis University.
St. Francis, which launched its esports program in 2019, has played a big part in helping high school programs establish themselves.
“As the first college with esports in our area, we wanted to make sure that we were providing the opportunity to area high schools,” St. Francis esports coach Luke Trotz said. “That’s exactly what this is. Bishop Carroll now is providing all kinds of opportunity, whether its college outcomes or career outcomes for their students.
“Esports is now a giant industry that the students have a lot of opportunities to get an education in or professionally. Bishop Carroll having the first dedicated room at a high school in the Laurel Highlands is a huge step forward.”
Mason noted that schools throughout Cambria County, including Bishop McCort Catholic, Central Cambria, Ferndale, Forest Hills, Greater Johnstown and Penn Cambria, along with Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic and Somerset Area are set to join Bishop Carroll in the spring league. He also added that Blacklick Valley and Portage are tentatively slated to join in the fall.
Being on the ground floor for a new initiative for area high school students isn’t lost on Blaisdell.
“It’s really cool that we were one of the first schools around to get it,” Blaisdell said. “Being on the forefront of that as an emerging sport is really cool. It’s exciting, I can’t wait to see where it goes.”