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PIAA votes for fall sports to begin

Coach Ed Gallagher gathers the members of the Souderton Area football team into a huddle after practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. (Rachel Wisniewski/For MediaNews Group)

The PIAA Board of Directors voted on Friday to permit fall sports to begin on Monday, based on local school decisions.

The Board agrees the decision to compete in athletics should be made locally, allowing for each school entity to decide whether to proceed and which sports to sponsor.

“I’m very happy that the PIAA decided to stay the course,” said Souderton Area football coach Ed Gallagher, who guided his squad to the playoffs a year ago. “COVID numbers in our area are very good right now — there’s no sense waiting until the spring.”

Added Gallagher: “I’m happy for our seniors to get the chance to play.”

The start dates for all fall sports were also updated.

Monday will be the first practice date for golf, girls tennis, cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey, soccer, football and water polo.

The first scrimmage date will be Aug. 27 for golf, Aug. 29 for girls track, cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey, soccer and water polo, and Sept. 5 for football.

The first contest date will be Aug. 27 for golf, Aug. 31 for girls track, and Sept. 11 for cross country, girls volleyball, field hockey, soccer, football and water polo.

The PIAA stated: “As the health and safety of students is paramount in moving forward with athletics, the Board believes that through each member schools’ adherence to their developed school health and safety plans and the PIAA Return to Competition guidelines, sports can continue.”

Not all news was good for all area schools on Friday, however, as some, including Cheltenham, decided to cancel their fall sports.

Football coach Ryan Nase learned of the decision on Friday.

“My hope is that no other coaches have to do what I had to do today,” said Nase, who guided the Panthers to the PIAA-5A State Final a year ago, “fight through the tears, anger, and disappointment of players who’ve done everything right and still won’t get a chance to play.

“It was the worst thing I ever had to do. I’m very nervous that, between virtual learning and a lack of sports and activities, our kids are really going to suffer mentally and emotionally. I’ll do everything I can to keep them engaged and working athletically and academically but I’m scared.”

Pottstown and Norristown also opted out of fall sports.

The PIAA stressed that football must sponsor heat acclimatization for five consecutive days if starting prior to Friday, Sept. 4.

Following the heat acclimatization, five days of practice must be completed before a scrimmage.

The PIAA also stated: “The Board of Directors has heard the thousands of voices of student-athletes, parents, coaches, officials as well as community leaders that have contacted us.

“We remind those individuals who have strongly advocated for athletics that they must keep strict adherence to school health and safety plans. All individuals involved in interscholastic athletic communities have a role in the health and wellness of all participants.”

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