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Parents, students: Football postponement a good call

Christopher Dornblaser
505-5436/@YDDornblaser
  • Friday night's York Suburban football game at Columbia School District was postponed to Saturday.
  • Columbia Borough School District said a threat caused them to postpone the game.
  • Students and parents agreed officials made the right decision moving the game to Saturday.

Dale Phillips received a phone call Friday night, an automated message from York Suburban School District informing parents that the football game at Columbia High School had been postponed due to safety concerns.

After a threat from a Columbia student, the game would be played at 2 p.m. Saturday at York Suburban High School instead, according to the message.

Phillips' son is a freshman at York Suburban. Asked if officials had made the right decision postponing the game, she replied, "Absolutely,"

Tim Woolley, of Spring Garden Township, who was with Phillips at the moved game Saturday afternoon, agreed.

"You put the people first," he said.

York Suburban Principal Brian Ellis, left, talks with Spring Garden Township Chief George Swartz during the York Suburban vs. Columbia football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Due to a threat at Columbia High School Friday night, the game was postponed and played Saturday at 2 p.m. at York Suburban High. (Amanda Cain - acain@yorkdispatch.com)

A statement from Columbia Borough School District, posted about 7 p.m. Friday on the district's website, said borough police had received word of a threat, something said by a student who was later taken into custody. Columbia Borough Police could not be reached about the nature of the threat.

Matt Marshall, athletic director for York Suburban, said the decision to postpone the game was made about 6:45 p.m. Friday, and those in attendance had to evacuate the stadium.

An incident a week earlier at William Penn Senior High's football home opener in York influenced the decision to cancel Friday's game in Columbia.

"Given the recent events in the immediate community and surrounding communities, an overabundance of caution is in order at the time," the Columbia district's statement read.

Spring Garden Township Police officers, left, talk with a fan at the entrance gate during a football game between York Suburban and Columbia on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Because of a threat at Columbia High School on Friday evening, the game was postponed and played Saturday at York Suburban High School. Amanda J. Cain photo

Incidents: Friday's threat came just a week after two men were shot outside a William Penn High School game against another Lancaster County school, J.P. McCaskey, at Small Field in York City. The shootings prompted a lockdown of the stadium, keeping nearly 2,000 attendees from leaving the game.

Two men, Darius Allen, 23, of York City, and Antwan Jackson, 20, of the York area, were shot in the parking lot outside Small Athletic Field after being removed from the game by security, according to York City Police.

Allen was struck once in the abdomen, and Jackson was struck once in the back. The incident resulted in a 20-minute lockdown, with the family, friends and fans in attendance asked to remain inside the stadium until the all-clear was given.

Police say Stephon Brown, 15, of Reading, was the shooter. They are still looking for the teen.

In response, the York City School District has proposed a number of security improvements, including moving all future home football games to Saturday afternoons. The school board will vote on that decision at Wednesday's meeting.

Security eyed after shootings outside York High football game

The move: York Suburban Football coach Andy Loucks said the decision to delay the game and play it at his school was a logistical one.

"Our superintendent was at the game, so she was kind of helping their superintendent and both the athletic directors, and everybody kind of just decided that if we weren’t going to play (Friday) night, what would be the best avenue to have it," he said.

"They figured to have it during the day, and our place was mentioned because (Columbia) wasn’t able to host it during the day due to not being able to get officials and stuff. Both schools worked together and decided this would be the best place to have it for everybody,” the coach said.

York Suburban game at Columbia postponed for possible threat

The game: On Saturday, the game, which the Trojans won 36-14, seemed a little bit bare-bones for a traditional high school football competition. No cheerleaders were there, and only a fraction of York Suburban's marching band could make it.

Still, Marshall, the athletic director, said it looked as though attendance was only a little below the typical turnout on Fridays.

The game was the team's third of the season and now their third game at home.

Spring Garden Township Police Chief George Swartz was at the game. He said he had been asked the night before by Suburban Superintendent Shelley Merkle to have officers at the game.

He said if a large crowd is expected or if it is anticipated there might be a problem, the department is usually requested.

The chief said he had spoken with officers from Columbia and that he felt the game at York Suburban would be safe.

"We anticipate nothing but a great football game today," he said before kickoff.

Officers could be seen on bicycles as well as near the away-team bleachers and at the entrance of the stadium.

York Suburban High School Principal Brian Ellis said the school is always looking to improve security, and that Friday night's threats would be taken into account when those discussions happen.

 

Fans look on during the first quarter of a football game between York Suburban and Columbia Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Due to a threat at Columbia High School Friday evening, the game was postponed and played Saturday at York Suburban High School. Amanda J. Cain photo

Parents and students: Tiffany and Mark Reever, of Spring Garden Township, were at the game Saturday. The couple has two young daughters and a son in Suburban schools. About a half hour before the game started, the family was grabbing something to eat at the snack stand.

Tiffany Reever said school officials made the right call moving the game to Saturday.

"You gotta look out for the safety of the kids," she said. "That's No. 1 above all of everything, and if this is what they thought was best, I would just trust they know what they're doing."

Matthew Curilla, 16, a junior at York Suburban and first-year football player, said it was good to be on home turf, but said the games are better on Friday nights.

Spring Garden Township Officers, watch as fans walk into a football game between York Suburban and Columbia Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Due to a threat at Columbia High School Friday evening, the game was postponed and played today at York Suburban High School. Amanda J. Cain photo

"It was kind of shocking," Curilla said of the Friday night's alleged threat.

Tevin Singletary, 13, a freshman on Suburban's team, said when he first heard what happened, he thought it was some sort of "sick joke."

"When I heard they found him, that scared me," he said.

The two players agreed officials made the right decision to move the game. Curilla said he thinks the threat was an isolated incident and not something that could happen again.

Fans talk amongst themselves during the first quarter of a football game between York Suburban and Columbia Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. Due to a threat at Columbia High School Friday evening, the game was postponed and played Saturday at York Suburban High School. Amanda J. Cain photo

Elijah St. Onje, 15, a sophomore at York Suburban, was walking around at the game during halftime Saturday. He said he came to the game because he had heard it would be safe. While he wasn't at the game the night before, he found the incident scary.

"It was kind of scary, because, it's like, we know those people," he said.

Loucks, Suburban's coach, lamented the two security issues, so close together.

"It’s unfortunate for all the fans and the players and everybody that you have to deal with this kind of stuff, but I think that’s kind of the way we live right now," he said. "People just saying stuff without thinking about what they’re saying and doing stuff without thinking about what they do, and it affects everybody.”

York Dispatch Sports Reporter Patrick Stroehecker contributed to this report.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.