A delay of game has been called on high school football and other fall sports in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The WPIAL announced Friday the start of fall sports will be delayed because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement came after the WPIAL board voted Thursday to make the changes.
“In light of the current situation faced by school districts, the state and the nation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the WPIAL encourages everyone to be flexible and understanding of the fluid situation and know that the decisions made during the July 30, 2020 WPIAL Board meeting were difficult, but necessary during this unprecedented time,” the WPIAL said in a statement. “We look forward to the full return of school and sports but must adapt in the current environment for at least the foreseeable future. Thus, we respectfully ask for your patience and cooperation as we all travel down this path together.”
The WPIAL notified high school administrators Friday that football season won’t start until Sept. 10, and the regular season will be reduced to only seven games and end one week earlier than originally scheduled.
Golf and girls tennis can start competition Aug. 24. The remaining falls sports – boys and girls cross country, field hockey, boys and girls soccer and girls volleyball – begin Sept. 14.
In delaying the football season, games that were scheduled for Aug. 28, Sept. 4 and Sept. 11 (Weeks 0, 1 and 2) have been canceled. No conference games were scheduled prior to Sept. 18, making the changes easier for the WPIAL.
The regular season was to end Oct. 30, but the final week will now be Oct. 23. Games that were scheduled for Oct. 30 (Week 9) have been moved to Sept. 11 and will be the season openers.
That means some of the area’s most interesting games, along with its oldest rivalries, will be played at the start of the season instead of at the end. They include Washington at McGuffey, South Fayette at Peters Township, Jefferson-Morgan at Carmichaels, Fort Cherry at Burgettstown, Ringgold at Trinity and Beth-Center at Waynesburg.
“I like anything that allows kids to have an opportunity to play,” said Washington head football coach and athletic director Mike Bosnic. “Up until this morning, everything had been normal, running as scheduled. I think the kids will adapt. They want to have a season.”
One football team that took a hit with the schedule change is Chartiers-Houston. The Bucs were the only WPIAL team that did not have a conference game scheduled for Oct. 30. They were able to fill that open date with a game at home against Hundred (W.Va.) to conclude the regular season.
However, that game could not be rescheduled for Sept. 11, so Chartiers-Houston athletic director Kurt Kesneck is back at square one, only this time looking for an opponent for the Bucs to open the season against.
“We’ll go back to calling Ohio schools and West Virginia schools,” Kesneck said. “Before, because of the way the schedule was, we needed a home game to make it five at home and five away. Now, it’s going to be four and three either way, so it can be a home or away game.
“Before we scheduled the game against Hundred, I was emailing and calling every school I could. I like to be hands-on when it comes to scheduling, but I couldn’t find anybody to schedule and finally I told our head coach (Terry Fetsko) to see what he could do. It ended up that Hundred called us looking for a game.”
The WPIAL is still allowing for football teams to begin heat acclimatization as scheduled Aug. 10. A scrimmage can be held Sept. 3-5.
“By keeping start of heat acclimatization at Aug. 10, I think one thing this does is eliminate the need for having two practices a day and having kids together in the locker rooms all day at camp,” Bosnic said. “I don’t know if that was the intention or not.”
The decision to end the football season earlier was made in case the PIAA starts the state playoffs earlier, which is expected.
WPIAL playoffs are to continue to begin as normal in all sports except in football, which has two potential playoff scenarios that are based upon if the PIAA has a postseason tournament or not. The number of playoff qualifiers will be determined by which playoff format is used.
The PIAA had announced Wednesday it planned to start fall sports as scheduled in August but allowed some wiggle room for its districts to use delayed starts and varied scheduling models for seasons. That’s what the WPIAL opted to implement.