Football helmet

Football helmet

It was a season like no other in a year like no other.

What should have been bright days in the sun turned into the dark days of August when the 2020 fall scholastic sports season was hanging in the balance while state officials debated whether she season should go on as scheduled.

The PIAA, which governs sports in Pennsylvania, voted to delay the start of the fall season, including high school football, for two weeks, saying that it would revisit the issue in two weeks.

Things did not look for scholastic sports in those two weeks with the worldwide virus continuing to rage and threatening to deliver its hardest hit.

But when the PIAA reconvened, it voted overwhelming to conduct falls sports, albeit with health and safety plans to guard against exposure to the virus. Ultimately, the PIAA left the decision to particpate to each school district, and many chose not to proceed, but the majority did, and all nine Heritage Conference schools as well as Indiana, Apollo-Ridge and Ligonier Valley of the WPIAL, were ready to play.

Some saw disaster looming and a “season” that might last a couple weeks before the virus took its toll. After all, how could it be if possible, when we were asked to mask up, for kids to go out and breath and sweat and bleed all over each other without disastrous effects?

The high school football season kicked off Friday, Sept. 11, with attendance limited by state mandate. At the time, there was no sense finalizing a postseason format that might not be necessary. Games were postponed or canceled or forfeited due to virus exposure in one form or another.

Amid the uncertainty, districts and the PIAA accelerated toward the postseason, starting weeks earlier than normal … and finishing it on the weekend after Thanksgiving.

In keeping with the recurring theme in winter sports over the past few months, this is the delayed All-Gazette Football Team. It consists of 28 really good football players, including Homer-Center’s Ben Schmidt, who put up unprecedented offensive numbers, and Apollo-Ridge’s Logan Harmon, a running back/linebacker no one wanted to meet in the hole on either side of the ball.

The greatest feat of this group, though, is that that suited up every Friday night amid weeks of uncertainly, and during 48 minutes on a scoreboard and who knows how long in their minds and hearts, found a distraction from the drudgery of a school year affected so harshly by the virus.    

There is no coach of the year on this team. It could have been Apollo-Ridge’s Jon Skiba, whose team steamrolled its way into the WPIAL semifinals. The Vikings had the misfortune, through no fault of their own, of having two games dropped from the schedule due to the virus.

It could have been Marion Center’s Adam Rising or Penns Manor’s Bill Packer, whose teams went undefeated in the regular season, and even though they didn’t get to play each other, shared the Heritage Conference title.

It could have been Homer-Center’s Greg Page, who took another team to a District 6 championship game.

Instead, all 12 coaches can share in a symbolic gesture for getting their teams through this season like no other in a year like no other.

Turn the page to see the team.