Conemaugh Valley has waited three weeks to play a football game as a result of a bye week and a coronavirus-related cancellation.
It’s been an even longer wait for a district playoff game to be played at Thomas Yewcic Stadium.
The Blue Jays, seeded fourth in District 6 Class A, will host Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic, the fifth seed, at 1 p.m. Saturday.
It will be the first home playoff contest for Conemaugh Valley, which is 2-7 all-time in District 6 and PIAA postseason appearances.
“The first week we were off when we were supposed to play Keystone we played an intrasquad scrimmage against each other,” said Conemaugh Valley coach Matt Kent, whose team had an Oct. 17 home game against Keystone canceled due to the Panthers having a COVID-19 situation. “The two coaches picked teams and we played a full intrasquad game.”
The date against Keystone, a school from Knox in Clarion County, was intended to help the Blue Jays replace Ferndale on the schedule. Conemaugh Valley and Ferndale joined in a co-op agreement in football just prior to the 2020 season.
Then, the top-four teams in the 6-A rankings received first-round byes, giving the Blue Jays another off week.
“We pretty much knew in the back of our minds that we were going to be playing Guilfoyle so we’ve been preparing for two weeks,” Kent said. “The players were obviously upset that they didn’t get a chance to play. They also had a couple bumps and bruises that had a chance to heal. So in a way it helped us.”
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic also has been idle the past two weeks due to a COVID-19 situation at the Blair County school. A regular-season game against Central Cambria was canceled due to potential exposure to a COVID-positive individual on the Bishop Guilfoyle sideline on Oct. 10 against Chestnut Ridge.
Last week’s first-round playoff game scheduled against No. 12 seed Bishop McCort Catholic wasn’t played after the Crimson Crushers opted to forfeit – a “decision made in the best interest of their student-athletes.”
Bishop McCort Catholic had moved into the 12th playoff spot after original 12th-seed Glendale opted to not participate in the playoffs, instead playing a regular-season game.
Cleared members of the Marauders’ team and coaching staff had returned to practice the Monday prior to the scheduled playoff game against McCort at Mansion Park. Coach Justin Wheeler was not going to coach in the scheduled game against the Crushers due to a quarantine situation.
When asked about the situation the Blue Jays’ Kent said, “It is what it is. We’ve got to keep playing.”
Blue Jays junior back Logan Kent remains among the area leaders with 869 rushing yards and nine TDs on 96 carries, despite not playing for two weeks. Junior quarterback Noah Heltzel completed 17 of 30 passes for 270 yards and five TDs, and he booted 15 of 16 extra-point attempts.
Junior Nick Heltzel has 366 rushing yards and five TDs. Senior Justin Mitchell has six catches for 110 receiving yards.
Defensively, senior Dylan Stephens has 47 tackles and junior Bruce Moore has 41 stops and four sacks.
Even as the higher seed, Conemaugh Valley (4-1) will be an underdog against LHAC power Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic (4-2), a program that won three consecutive state titles from 2014-16 and was state runner-up after losing a 10-7 overtime game against Farrell last season.
“It’s exciting,” Coach Kent said. “I just wish we were under normal circumstances so some more fans could come. It is sold out though.”
Kent said a total of 850 participants are permitted on the field and in the stands on Saturday based on COVID-19 guidelines.
Conemaugh Valley’s previous District 6-A playoff appearances included: 2018 (12-6 loss at Claysburg-Kimmel); 2006 (36-14 loss at Glendale); 2005 (29-6 loss at Bishop Carroll); 1996 (28-7 loss at Bishop Carroll); 1992 (35-6 win over Laurel Valley in 6-A final at Mansion Park; 21-20 win over Northern Bedford in PIAA game at Mansion Park; 14-7 loss to Smethport in PIAA game at Mansion Park); 1989 (14-6 loss to Laurel Valley at United High School); and 1988 (29-28 loss to Bishop McCort at Point Stadium).
In 1988, the Blue Jays hosted an Appalachian Conference semifinal game and lost 20-6 to Blairsville.