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Some states to delay, but PIAA boss optimistic Pa. prep football season will start on time

CHRIS HARLAN
(Greensburg) Tribune-Review (TNS)
Bob Lombardi

High school football season won’t start on time in neighboring New Jersey, but Pennsylvania has no plans to delay kickoff.

“We’re not discussing pushing it back,” PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said Wednesday. “We’re still cautiously optimistic about starting practice on time. We’re just going to take it day by day. If things change, we’ll adjust.

“I think it’s too early to make that call.”

Pennsylvania high school football teams are schedule to start heat acclimatization Aug. 10, which is little more than a month away. Fall practices for all sports start Aug. 17.

Week Zero games are Aug. 28.

“We need to get through some weeks here and see how things shake out,” Lombardi said. “From what I’m hearing, schools are doing a great job. They ought to be commended.”

The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association — that state’s version of the PIAA — already delayed the start of football practice and eliminated Week Zero from the schedule, according to reports. Now, New Jersey teams will start their regular seasons Labor Day weekend, Sept. 4-6.

NJSIAA’s decision to delay impacted two WPIAL teams. Pine-Richland and Clairton were scheduled to face teams from New Jersey.

Pine-Richland was playing Northern Highlands of Allendale, N.J. in Week Zero, but that contest had to be canceled. The Rams since have agreed to play Delaware Valley, a PIAA Class 6A playoff qualifier in the past three seasons.

Delaware Valley is located in Pike County, which borders New York and New Jersey.

“We’re working out details,” Kasperowicz said. “Our athletic directors are talking about whether they’re going to come here, whether we’re going to go there or possibly meeting in the middle of the state somewhere.

“Hopefully, we’ll get that ironed out this week.”

Pine-Richland reached out to Penn State about using Beaver Stadium, but it wasn’t available. The stadium hosted a high school game last October when State College played Cumberland Valley.

“We tried,” Kasperowicz said. “I called them.”

Clairton was scheduled to play Penns Grove, N.J. in a multi-game Week Zero event at Woodland Hills’ Wolvarena. The two-day event remains on schedule, Woodland Hills athletic director Ron Coursey said, but he’s searching out a new opponent for Clairton. Coursey is the former AD at York High.

“We’re moving along business as usual,” Coursey said, “unless somebody tells us otherwise.”

New Jersey isn’t the only state making changes.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee extended a COVID-19 state of emergency until Aug. 29, which keeps restrictions on high school football, soccer, basketball and wrestling. The earliest Tennessee high schools can play football games is Sept. 18, according to the Tennessean.

The PIAA board will discuss fall sports when it meets July 15. For now, the PIAA has no board meeting scheduled for August, so the outline of fall regulations would need to start this month.

“We’ll probably have a shell done by then,” Lombardi said, “but it might be able to be tweaked as we go forward.”

Lombardi noted that Wednesday — July 1 — was the original date set for offseason workout to resume statewide, until Gov. Tom Wolf released COVID-19 guidelines June 10. After that announcement, the PIAA said any school district could resume offseason workouts immediately as long as its school board approved a health and safety plan.

“I’ve heard a lot of positives,” Lombardi said. “Some people got a couple of extra weeks in, or a week, or a couple of days. From the feedback I’m hearing, people have put together good, solid plans and they’re working them.”