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COVID-19 issues force central Pa. team to forfeit District 3 boys' soccer title game

JAKE ADAMS
The (Carlisle) Sentinel (TNS)
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In about a week, the Cumberland Valley boys' soccer players will be handed a trophy and gold medals for winning the District 3 Class 4-A championship.

They will get those honors despite not actually playing the game.

Hours after the game was originally postponed to Thursday, District 3 announced on Twitter that Manheim Township had withdrawn from the postseason because of COVID-19 issues, forfeiting the title game to Cumberland Valley.

"Absolutely a humbling moment because this is not how we wanted the game to be determined at any level. I have a ton of respect for (coach) Kevin Baker at Manheim Township," Eagles head coach Matt Billman said on the phone minutes after he found out the news, while still on the practice field. "Clearly it's 2020 and their district has had a really difficult stretch of time."

It was the culmination of a whirlwind Tuesday that started when the district announced in the morning that the game, originally scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Manheim Township, was postponed. Manheim Township later acknowledge it was because of a COVID-19 issue within the school district.

The news of the forfeit broke shortly after 5 p.m. Billman got the call from CV athletic director Mike Craig while conducting practice.

"He's like, 'congratulations.' And I'm like, 'Oh my goodness, you gotta be kidding me,'" Billman said. "I just brought everyone in and said, 'They forfeited.' Our kids get that, they knew what it meant."

So now the Eagles are the 4-A champs and will play District 4 champion Williamsport, a team they faced in the 2017 state playoffs, in Saturday's PIAA Class 4-A quarterfinals. The site and time are to be determined.

The Eagles now have nine District 3 titles.

Billman stressed repeatedly he and his players are approaching the result, which he avoided calling a victory, with "humility."

"I'm using the word 'humbled' because I think we're moving forward, but I and we totally get how this came to be," he said.

Billman said he wants to "compose a message to send to Manheim Township and their community."

The Eagles will represent all of District 3's leagues during states, he said.

"I truly hope health-wise and everything going on with [Manheim Township] that they're OK and in another year, another season we can play them under much different circumstances," he said.

Also on Tuesday afternoon, District 3 announced all three of Wednesday's field hockey championships were postponed to Thursday because of the potential for bad weather.

Tuesday's news is the latest instance of a team being forced to alter a scheduled game or drop out of the district playoffs altogether during the pandemic.

Monday, Warwick was forced to forfeit its Class 5-A football championship game, set for Friday against Governor Mifflin, because of COVID-19, giving the Mustangs the district title and a berth in states.

Before that, Harrisburg's football team forfeited its playoff opener against York High hours after the district brackets were released. The Boiling Springs field hockey team also dropped out of districts a week before their scheduled opener.

This is the second time in a week a CV team has received a district forfeit. The girls' volleyball team advanced past Palmyra in the 4-A quarters after the Cougars were forced to forfeit. Palmyra had won the 3-A state title in 2019.