HEISER: Pandemic couldn't stop local fall sports season packed with memorable moments
- Central York won a District 3 Class 6-A football title and advanced to the state final.
- York Suburban stormed back to win a District 3 Class 3-A girls' volleyball crown.
- Northeastern's Margaret Carroll finished third in the state 3-A cross country girls' meet.
Just think what we would’ve missed.
Just think of what wouldn’t have occurred if we didn’t even try to have a fall high school sports season.
The records that were set, the championships that were won and the memories that were made — none of them would’ve happened.
Athletes who had spent their entire young lives waiting with ardent anticipation for their senior seasons would’ve been robbed of that extraordinary experience.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Fortunately, administrators, coaches, players, parents and fans all stepped forward and found a way to make sure that the 2020 fall season took place.
Thank heavens they did.
As PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said: “The biggest mistake we could have made was not to try."
You nailed that one, Bob.
A season that nearly didn’t happen: Of course, in hindsight, it would be easy to forget that the season very nearly did not happen. When Gov. Tom Wolf issued his “strong recommendation” in August that no youth sports be held until after Jan. 1 of 2021, it would’ve been easy for the PIAA, the leagues and the school districts to just shut things down.
It took more than a little gumption on their parts to go against Wolf’s recommendation. There was considerable risk involved, too. What would’ve happened if massive coronavirus outbreaks rocked teams across the state? Even worse, what would’ve happened if a young athlete died of COVID-19?
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The repercussions would’ve been colossal.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Thankfully, most everyone followed the protocols on wearing masks, maintaining social distance and washing hands. Nearly every reasonable precaution was taken. Health and safety were priorities.
Yes, there were numerous bumps along the way. There were postponements, cancellations and forfeits. Some teams with legitimate state championship hopes saw their seasons ended prematurely, not by a loss on the field, but by an unforgiving virus.
And yes, most events featured few, or even zero, fans. The exhilarating atmosphere that normally surrounds prep events, especially for Friday night football games, was nowhere to be found. There’s no denying that was missed.
Events we would’ve missed: Still, the events went on, and just imagine what we would’ve missed in York County if they didn’t:
►Central York’s historic run to the PIAA Class 6-A state football final. The District 3 champion Panthers went where no York County team had gone before, and in the process, they helped the entire York-Adams League shake off its reputation as a conference that couldn’t compete with the state’s football powers.
►York Suburban’s dramatic run to its first District 3 girls’ volleyball championship in more than four decades. The Trojans trailed Garden Spot 2-0 in the district 3-A final, only to storm back for the victory, which included a pulsating 31-29 triumph in Set 4.
►Margaret Carroll’s record-setting senior cross country campaign. The Northeastern standout earned Y-A League and District 3 3-A championships before finishing third in the state 3-A run.
►The golf performances of Dallastown’s Makensy Knaub and Spring Grove’s Karl Frisk. They each won Y-A titles before Knaub won the District 3 3-A girls’ crown. Frisk lost in a playoff for the district 3-A title before earning a top-five state finish.
►Northern York’s emergence as a boys’ soccer power, that included the program's first-ever District 3 3-A crown and a berth in the state 3-A final.
Much-needed distraction: Yes, most of us couldn’t watch those events in person, but livestreams and TV and radio broadcasts brought a lot of the action straight into our homes.
That was vitally important, because during these uncertain times, all of us need some distractions to pull our minds away from our troubles. The fall high school sports season was just what many of us needed.
Most importantly of all, thousands of high school athletes got to participate in the sports they love and fulfill life-long dreams.
Folks who don’t love sports probably can’t understand why it was necessary to hold a fall high school season during a pandemic.
For folks who do love sports, however, the looks on the athletes’ faces after scoring a game-winning touchdown, earning an overtime victory or winning a district championship is all the explanation that is required.
Memories like those were worth the effort and the risk.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.