BLAIRSVILLE – At a time of the year when high school football typically dominates headlines and highlight segments, the sport appropriately moved to the background on Wednesday.
Ligonier Valley’s game scheduled on Friday night will not be played, as Blairsville High School mourns the tragic deaths of two students in one week.
According to media reports, the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District confirmed that one student at Blairsville High School died on Tuesday and another died on Oct. 5. Both deaths were by suicide, the reports stated.
Ligonier Valley football coach Roger Beitel was informed his undefeated team will receive a forfeit win and clinch the Heritage Conference title.
Those facts were not important to Beitel on Wednesday.
“It’s more about prayers and thoughts and sympathies going out to the entire Blairsville community during their grief,” Beitel said. “This is a game. The things they are dealing with and their community is dealing with are far more important than a football game.”
Attempts to reach Blairsville coach Rick Artley were unsuccessful.
Beitel said his staff addressed the tragic situation with the players.
“We just wanted to talk to them and say, ‘Look, if you’re in a situation where you feel you don’t have hope any more, I don’t care what time of the day it is, call us. We’ll talk to you and tell you reasons why there is hope,’ ” Beitel said.
Extra counselors are helping students, faculty and staff in the Blairsville-Saltsburg District.
“This is about a community,” Beitel said. “This is about kids at school who lost classmates and teachers who lost students, and neighbors who lost neighbors. That’s the big picture.”