Southern Columbia-Wyoming Area football showdown back on, gets approved by conference

The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens' Voice (via AP)

After weeks of speculation, the on, then off, match-up between state power Southern Columbia and Wyoming Area is now officially on.

Principals and athletic directors from the Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference approved Shikellamy's request to play Holy Redeemer during a meeting Monday at Lewisburg High School. Wyoming Area and Southern Columbia will play 7 p.m. Friday at Wyoming Area in a game that will feature a pair of 7-0 teams. Southern Columbia has won nine state championships and features four of the best players in the country.

"It is what it has been ever since the beginning," said Wyoming Area coach Randy Spencer. "Just a genuinely outstanding, competitive opportunity for our kids and the program. It will be a great experience for the program and our community."

In the middle of September, Southern Columbia coach Jim Roth reached out to Wyoming Area athletic director Joe Pizano about the possibility of the two teams playing one another. But in order for that to happen, the original opponents on the schedule would have had to agree to the switch. Southern Columbia was supposed to play Shikellamy in Week 8, while Wyoming Area was set to play Holy Redeemer. All four schools were on board with the change, as well as the Wyoming Valley Conference and District 2.

However, the PHAC, the league where Southern Columbia plays, was not officially on board, after learning of the game via social media. That led PHAC administrators to threaten Southern Columbia with sanctions against the football team as well as the entire athletic program if the Tigers went ahead and played the Warriors without consent from the PHAC. So with that understanding, the four teams were going to return to their original schedules and carry out the remainder of the regular season as planned.

But then came word late last Thursday that Shikellamy High School was going to file a formal proposal with the PHAC requesting to play Holy Redeemer on Friday. That would open the door for Southern Columbia to be able to travel to Wyoming Area.

"I don't think there has been a game of this caliber with the type of the magnitude of players since probably 30 years ago when Ron Powlus and Berwick played at our place," Spencer said. "It is a tremendous opportunity."

Spencer said that despite all the speculation on whether or not the game against Southern Columbia was going to actually be played, it was not a distraction to the team, especially with the Warriors having played Lake-Lehman and Dunmore in the last two weeks.

"Our kids were impacted minimally," Spencer said. "Obviously there is interest and excitement. We had two tough games the last two weeks we had to focus on. The kids did a nice job staying focused on the next opponent."

Holy Redeemer will play Shikellamy 7 p.m. Friday at Berwick's Crispin Field.