After weeks of uncertainty, the high school football season will finally kick off on Friday.
Despite a “strong recommendation” from Gov. Tom Wolf that sports be postponed until January because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association voted late last month to allow competition in the fall.
Schools will follow Wolf’s guidelines of 250 or fewer people at outdoor events. That number will include players, coaches, officials, game staff, band members and cheerleaders before factoring in fans.
Despite those restrictions, players and coaches are eager to get the season underway, as other states have nixed fall sports altogether. Just this week, New York and Colorado moved high school football to the spring.
“With all of these rules and regulations, the kids and coaches, we’re just so happy to be out there,” Westmont Hilltop coach Pat Barron said. “If we had to wear a full hazmat suit, so be it. We’re just thrilled to be playing. Whatever we have to do to make it work, we’ll make it work.”
Despite all the news surrounding COVID-19, there are several storylines to follow on the field this season:
• Will Richland be able to continue its dominance on the field, which includes District 6-AA and Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference titles in each of the past two years?
• Can any WestPAC team slow down Berlin Brothersvalley, which returns 10 starters on offense and defense from last year’s District 5-AA runner-up squad?
• New coaches will man the sidelines for five area teams: Tom Smith at Bishop McCort, Brian Basile at Somerset, Bob Landis at North Star, Bubba Fatula at Bishop Carroll and Marty Slanoc at Portage.
• Ligonier Valley is making a move from the Heritage Conference to the WPIAL. Although not a member of the Heritage, Bishop Carroll will replace Ligonier on this year’s schedule.
• And in the WestPAC, Ferndale has reached an agreement to form a co-op with Conemaugh Valley.
We wish luck and safety to all the coaches and players as they embark on what is sure to be a memorable season.