One thing that seems true about 2020 is things can change very quickly.
In addition to Valley football teams dealing with the new suggested protocols for the 2020 season, some teams will also have to deal with schedule changes.
The Mid-Penn Conference voted on Monday to not begin fall sports until Sept. 4, which will affect the football season at Line Mountain High School. The Eagles join the Harrisburg-area conference this season in the Liberty Division after the disbanding of the Tri-Valley League for football. That will likely eliminate nonleague and crossover games for the Mid-Penn. The first play date for football in the conference will likely be Sept. 25.
That is the same plan the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL) — District 7 (suburban Pittsburgh) — adopted last week.
The Schuylkill League is scheduled to make a fall sports decision on Thursday. Selinsgrove opens the season with Pottsville, while Milton faces Nativity in its opener on Aug. 28. Pottsville and Nativity are both members of the Schuylkill League.
Lewisburg coach Marc Persing said the Green Dragons could not play their home games at Bucknell this season, and were exploring other options.
That all comes on the heels of last week’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) Board of Directors meeting during which possible protocols passed for the upcoming football season.
Some of the protocols seem easy to follow, including a team box extending to the 10-yard line on each side of the field to allow the teams more space to social distance, though new Shikellamy coach Jim Keiser did say, “We have a tight knit group of kids that really like each other. I think social distancing is going to be tough for them.”
Some of the other protocols might cause some issues. The PIAA football steering committee recommended getting full face shields for every player. Some coaches worry about how having an apparatus will affect breathing, and with not a lot of room for breath to escape — will fogging become an issue?
“I’m worried about the cost,” Warrior Run coach Chris Long said. “It’s just something they just came up with a few months ago.”
Line Mountain coach Brandon Carson said whatever the requirements his team had to do to be on the field this fall, they were doing it, but he had some questions about the shields as well.
The coaches also pointed to a social medial video by LSU linebacker Soni Fonua claiming how tough it was to breath in those shields.
Selinsgrove coach Derek Hicks said that he’s leaving the face shield decision to athletic director Justin Simpson, while Keiser and Persing said that their teams would all have the face shields this season.
“It’s going to all trial and error,” Persing said. “How foggy are they going to get? How tough will it be to breath?”
The other recommendation that worries some of the coaches — no huddles. The protocols encourage the minimization of offensive and defensive huddles, and encourage coaching staffs to utilize other methods of communication with players (such as signals, cards, signs) to minimize grouping, according to the PIAA’s Return to Competition guidelines.
Most of the coaches said that defensively, at least, it wouldn’t be a problem for them.
“We’ve never huddled on defense,” Hicks said.
Persing mentioned that his team didn’t really have to huddle on offense, either.
“We’ve always used signals and wrist bands to call the plays,” Persing said. “The huddle was a camaraderie thing.”
Carson’s and Hicks’ staffs are familiar with the no huddle. Those two coaches, along with Keiser at Shikellamy, also have veteran teams and said that their kids could adjust to not huddling pretty quickly offensively.
“We were moving in that direction anyway,” Carson said.
Long had the biggest issue with not huddling. The Defenders will have a pretty inexperienced team after last year’s trip to the District 4 Class 3A semifinals.
“It’s going to be tough. We’ve lost of all of our preseason (with a young team),” Long said. “I’d feel much better about that part of it if it was an experienced team. It’s not at all — in any way, shape or form — how we run our offense, and it’s going to be a really tough adjustment.”
However, this all could change soon. During a press conference on Monday when asked about fans being allowed a sporting events at high schools in the fall, Gov. Tom Wolf and Dr. Rachel Levine — Pennsylvania Secretary of Health — said the Department of Health’s recommendations for fall sports would be released Wednesday.