UPPER DARBY — Bonner-Prendergast football coach Jack Muldoon was psyched about his team’s upcoming game against Upper Moreland in the District 1-12 Class 4A regional playoffs.
The Friars, he said, had their two best practices of the season Monday and Tuesday and were looking forward to another spirited workout Wednesday when a morning phone call flipped Muldoon’s mood from upbeat to downcast.
A Bonner-Prendergast player had tested positive for COVID-19, which means the Friars had to shut down all football activities for two weeks and pull out of the PIAA tournament.
Archbishop Ryan will take Bonner-Prendie’s place in the tournament. The Raiders (0-3) will visit Upper Moreland Friday night at 7.
“Honestly, I feel terrible for Bonner,” said Upper Moreland coach C.J. Szydlik. “They have such a good team and have done a really good job there. It was going to be a big challenge for us but we were looking forward to it. We truly wish them the best and hope everyone is OK.”
Bonner-Prendergast officials immediately notified the Chester County Board of Health of the positive test and following its guidelines shut the program down for 14 days. The Friars can resume practice on Nov. 16.
While the school notified health department officials, Muldoon had the grim task of letting his players know before they found out about it on social media.
Since the school is operating in a hybrid format, where half the student body attends school, while the other half takes classes virtually, Muldoon had to sent the players in school home and contact those at home by phone.
“I’ve had to deliver bad news before, but this is among the worst,” Muldoon said.
As for Upper Moreland, its first playoff task just got a whole lot easier. But it’s not the way any team would want to compete.
“I guess what kids are learning through all of this is to roll with the punches and adapt to what is thrown at you,” Szydlik said. “We’ve had some really good practices this week after a rough game with Quakertown this past weekend. So we’re excited and fortunate to get out there and play another game.”
The stunned Friars football team, meanwhile, isn’t the only squad at Bonner-Prendergast shut down for two weeks. The girls soccer team also is in quarantine in what athletic director Brian Wagner called “an external case” involving a team the Pandas played.
Citing HIPPA laws, Wagner would not say which team the Pandas played that had the positive test result, noting the quarantine was “done out of an abundance of caution.” Wagner did say the team will try to play a few more games once out of quarantine.
As for the football team, the Friars (3-0), the top-ranked team in the Daily Times’ Super 7, were on a roll. They had pitched two shutouts and outscored their opponents 97-7 to earn a spot in the state playoffs for the first time in program history.
“I just feel bad,” Muldoon said. “I’m heartbroken for the kids. We had a bunch of college coaches coming here and we were gaining some momentum. We were getting recognized and we were really starting to come together. Everything was real positive. … Our defense was playing out of its mind and the kids were laser-focused.
“I have kids who lost out on their baseball season and basketball players who were in the state playoffs when everything was shut down in the spring, and now this.”
Muldoon said he and his staff looked to see if there were alternatives to pulling out of the tournament, but the protocols established by the Chester County Board of Health (which also sets protocols for Delaware County), based on state guidelines, are clear. A positive test means a 14-day shutdown.
“It’s a boulder that we can’t push back up the hill,” Muldoon said.
The Friars are the second Catholic League team that had to pull out of the PIAA playoffs this week.
Neumann-Goretti defeated Archbishop Carroll, 28-21, to earn the District 12 bid for the Class 3A playoffs. However, the Saints had to shut down the program for a second time, this time for the season after a positive test.
Archbishop Carroll is taking the Saints’ spot in the District 1-12 sub-regional and will play New Hope-Solebury Friday night at Cardinal O’Hara (6 p.m.).
Also, the Unionville High football and girls soccer teams had to pull out of the District 1 playoffs after one positive case was reported on each team. The football team was scheduled to be the No. 1 seed in the Class 5A playoffs, while the girls soccer team was slated to be the No. 8 seed in the Class 4A tournament.
“It can happen to anyone,” Muldoon said. “You just don’t know.”
Muldoon said that he hopes to get at least one or possibly two more games once the team returns to the field. However, that depends on who might be available to play.
“This is their outlet and my team loves to play football,” Muldoon said of his players. “We were a pretty good team and it’s just a shame. I don’t want this to be the end for them.”