COVID case knocks Harrisburg out of districts, giving York High a forfeit semifinal win

York High head coach Russ Stoner has led his football team to a 6-0 record in 2020.

The District 3 Class 6-A football playoff saga took yet another unexpected turn on Tuesday afternoon.

The Harrisburg Cougars, after making a late push just to qualify for the district postseason, are now shutting down their season because one of their players had a positive test for COVID-19.

The Cougars' late withdrawal means that York High will get a forfeit victory in the district 6-A semifinals and advance straight to the title game.

Harrisburg superintendent Chris Celmer released a statement Tuesday afternoon announcing the positive test, saying the entire Harrisburg football program is under strict quarantine, which will remain in place through Thursday, Nov 5.

The District 3 6-A playoffs start Friday, Oct. 30, which means the Cougars will not be able to participate.

When the official District 3 6-A pairings were released Tuesday morning, Harrisburg (4-0) was listed as the No. 1 seed, followed by Central Dauphin (5-0) at No. 2, Central York (6-0) at No. 3 and York High (6-0) at No. 4. 

Under those seedings, York High was slated to visit Harrisburg on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 31.

The other 6-A semifinal, pitting Central York at Central Dauphin at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, is still on as originally scheduled on Tuesday morning. The winner will take on York High the following week.

District 3, in a statement, said:

"As per PIAA District III policy, once the seedings and brackets were confirmed this morning, no substitutions were permissible. Therefore, York High will win by forfeit over Harrisburg and advance to the Class 6A Championship game on either Friday, Nov. 6 or Saturday, Nov. 7."

Harrisburg informed District 3 of the COVID case at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to District 3 official Rod Frisco.

That decision likely won't sit well with the folks at Wilson, which was No. 5 in the district 6-A power ratings. Instead of Wilson getting the opportunity to take the fourth slot in the district playoffs, York High will get a forfeit.

The team's positive COVID-19 test is the latest twist in a tumultuous Harrisburg season.

The Cougars had picked up an 11th-hour fourth opponent on Sunday in State College. Then on Monday, the Cougars moved to 4-0 with a 41-6 victory over the Little Lions.

That game was an absolute necessity for Harrisburg because District 3 is requiring at least four games to be played in the shortened 2020 season to qualify for districts.

Harrisburg got off to a late start to the 2020 season because the district's school board originally opted to cancel the fall sports season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only to later have a change of heart and start the season after almost all of the other schools in District 3 were well underway with their fall programs.

That left Harrisburg scrambling to get in four games before Monday night's district power ratings deadline.

Harrisburg not only got the four needed foes, the Cougars got the No. 1 seed in the Class 6-A field.

Before Monday's win by Harrisburg, Central York and York High were slated to meet in the district semifinals. Then, after Harrisburg's victory over State College, that possible York County showdown was pushed off, at least for now.

Central York and York High have identical power ratings at .730, which is not surprising since both teams went unbeaten vs. identical schedules. Central got the No. 3 seed over York High because of the No. 7 tiebreaker — fewest points allowed vs. common foes. Central has allowed 10 points vs. six common foes, while York High has allowed 85 points.

Central York and York High were originally scheduled to meet in a battle for the York-Adams Division I title this Friday, Oct. 30, at York High. That game, however, was postponed to allow both the Panthers and the Bearcats to compete in District 3 action.

Harrisburg said it has informed the State College School District of the positive case even though the player in question did not travel to Monday’s game because of a matter not related to COVID-19.

Other district qualifiers from the York-Adams League: Four other York-Adams teams have also qualified for the district playoffs.

New Oxford (5-0) is the No. 3 seed in 5-A and will travel to No. 2 seed Warwick (6-0) in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

Bermudian Springs (4-2) is the No. 4 seed in 3-A and will visit No. 1 seed Middletown (3-1) in a semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30.

York Catholic (5-1) is the No. 1 seed in 2-A and will play host to No. 2 seed Camp Hill (2-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6, in a championship game.

Delone Catholic (6-0) is the No. 1 seed in 1-A and will play host to No. 2 seed Steel-High (5-0) at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, in another title contest.

Central York, New Oxford and Delone will all face state-ranked foes, according to the most recent Trib HSSN poll from the (Greensburg) Tribune-Review.

Central Dauphin is No. 2 in 6-A, Warwick is No. 2 in 5-A and Steel-High is No. 3 in 1-A.

Notes of interest: There are some other District 3 notes of interest.

Bishop McDevitt, which is ranked No. 3 in the state in 4-A, didn't make the district playoffs. The Crusaders (5-0) were No. 5 in the final 4-A power ratings, behind four other unbeaten teams.

One other unbeaten District 3 team didn't make the playoffs — Hershey (5-0). The Trojans finished sixth in the final 5-A power ratings. The top four teams in 5-A are also unbeaten, but No. 5 Red Lion (4-2) also finished ahead of Hershey.

Also, since Bermudian Springs and Delone Catholic are slated for district games on Friday, their originally scheduled Friday foes have opted to play each other — again. Bermudian was scheduled to play at Biglerville and Hanover was scheduled to play at Delone on Friday. Now, according to Biglerville athletic director Anthony Graham, Hanover will play at Biglerville at 7 p.m. Friday. That sets up a very unusual rematch of Y-A D-III foes. Hanover (2-4) beat Biglerville (1-5) just last Friday, 21-20.

Following are the complete official District 3 pairings:


(4) York High (6-0) at (1) Harrisburg (4-0), 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. (Forfeit win for York High.

(3) Central York (6-0) at (1) Central Dauphin (5-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30.


(3) New Oxford (5-0) at (2) Warwick (6-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

(4) Mechanicsburg (5-0) at Gov. Mifflin (5-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.


(4) Conrad Weiser (6-0) at (1) Lampeter-Strasburg (6-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.

(3) Northern York (6-0) at (2) ELCO (6-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.


(4) Bermudian Springs (4-2) at (1) Middletown (3-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30.

(3) Boiling Springs (4-1) at (2) Wyomissing (5-0), 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31.


(2) Camp Hill (2-2) at (1) York Catholic (5-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6.


(2) Steel-High (5-0) at (1) Delone Catholic (6-0), 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30.

Reach Steve Heiser at This story was changed for updated pairings.