Throughout the summer months, school districts and their school boards debated whether to return to interscholastic sports. While not always expressly stated, the biggest question was what would happen if a team member tested positive for COVID-19? Would the case be identified before causing a team-wide outbreak?
On Friday, the reality hit Mercury-area high school football for the first time during the season, with Pope John Paul II and Pottsgrove delivering a master’s class on how to handle the situation.
“I found out about maybe 2 o’clock, that the game would need to be postponed,” said Pottsgrove head coach Bill Hawthorne.
The first concern, of course, was for the safety of players and coaches on both teams, but for Hawthorne and Pottsgrove the disappointment was real. Friday was set to be Pottsgrove’s Senior Night, an evening to honor the class whose final year of high school football will likely be defined by their ability to confront the challenges of an on-again, off-again season and a constantly moving schedule.
“The credit really goes to our athletic director, Steve Anspach,” said Hawthorne, “plus Pottsgrove’s principal and vice principal, Bill Ziegler and Eric Daney.”
“Getting a game cancelled is no easy task, especially on short notice. There are a lot of moving parts – TV, security, the senior night festivities, officials – they really did a great job in cancelling an endeavor that was challenging to put together in the first place.”
Hawthorne said that Pope John Paul II representatives contacted Pottsgrove as quickly as possible once they realized the situation.
“Everyone kept with protocol,” he said. “We did what we had to do and did it immediately. When you hear [COVID], the number-one priority is the youth of our community and the PJP community. [The football game] is done at that point, even if it is disappointing. We move onto next week and our next opponent.”
The coach confirmed that there was discussion around trying to find another game for the Falcons on Saturday in the wake of the cancellation, but ultimately it never came to pass.
“We looked at the opportunities,” confirmed Hawthorne, “but there wasn’t anything that would fit us and our program at this time. With our preseason, as it was with the lack of preparation, not being able to go inside … we’ve had three weeks of install before our first game. I’m not putting our kids in any situation where they could get hurt, and frankly, end their season before it really begins.”
Meanwhile, Pope John Paul II principal Reverend Brian Kean sent a letter to parents at the school disclosing the positive test and announcing that “out of an abundance of caution” Friday night’s contest would be cancelled. The Golden Panthers are still set to begin fall sports this week, with a football game scheduled for Saturday against Phoenixville (pending a board meeting Monday night) and next week, Oct. 23, against Upper Merion.
For Pottsgrove, the season is now set to begin this coming Friday when that same Upper Merion team visits Pennypacker Field. Hawthorne remains excited, but more than anything wants it to be a special night for his players.
“When you walk onto the practice field and see nothing but dejection because they’re not able to play a game, to wait months and months and have that game taken away last minute like that – I was impressed,” Hawthorne said, “because they did what Pottsgrove kids do – they laced up their shoes, they went out on that field and did what they had to do to get better.”
Around the Area >> Perkiomen Valley junior quarterback Ethan Kohler submitted a second consecutive career night with 271 total yards (227 pass, 44 rush) and five total touchdowns Friday night in the Vikings’ impressive 42-16 victory at Owen J. Roberts. The performance gives Kohler nine TDs over the past two games, and more importantly established the PV offense as a force to be reckoned with after a tough start to the season against rival Spring-Ford. Dawson Debebe (two), Leo Hunsberger, and Jason Posner were on the receiving end of Kohler’s scoring tosses, while Posner added a second TD reception on an 80-yard halfback pass from sophomore Rasheem Grayson.
OJR’s Avrey Grimm continued his torrid start to the 2020 campaign, rushing for 194 yards (an area-high so far in 2020) and another touchdown. Grimm is averaging nearly ten yards per carry through three games for the 2-1 Wildcats.
Spring-Ford’s defense continued building their impressive résumé in a 55-0 victory over Upper Perkiomen. The Rams, who have yet to allow a point before halftime this season, permitted the Indians only 26 yards of total offense while causing two turnovers and recovering a blocked punt for a touchdown for the second straight week. Nick Teets, the Rams’ all-purpose offensive weapon, broke the 100-yard mark in receiving yards while adding a short touchdown carry.
Methacton kept pace in the PAC race with a hard-fought 16-6 win against Boyertown. In a game that saw only 12 total pass attempts, it was the breakout performance of the Warriors’ Justin Carfrey making the difference, as he carried for 133 yards and two scores while catching three of quarterback Mike Merola’s four completions. Josh Cancro and Quinn Shields added QB sacks for a Warriors defense that held the Bears off the board after halftime. Roman Marinello led Boyertown with 78 yards rushing and the team’s only score on the evening.
A Look Ahead >> Daniel Boone returns to action this week when they welcome the stifling defense of Conrad Weiser. The Scouts have outscored opponents 139-27 in running up a 4-0 record. The Blazers’ plethora of weapons, including QB Carter Speyerer and WR Alex Vassallo are set to challenge the Scouts’ gaudy numbers as they look to bounce back from last week’s loss to Berks Catholic.
Pottsgrove and Upper Merion make their season debuts with a tilt at Pennypacker Field, while Methacton looks to stay alive in the PAC race by upending undefeated Spring-Ford. Owen J. Roberts looks to get back on track at Upper Perkiomen, while Boyertown aims for a breakthrough when they visit Perkiomen Valley.