County coaches were hit with a bit of a surprise Friday.
The WPIAL announced it had pushed back start dates for football and almost all other fall sports.
The WPIAL informed high school administrators Friday that football season won’t start until Sept. 10. In addition, the regular season will be reduced to seven games. Changes will be made for playoffs as well.
“It doesn’t really surprise me,” said Union football coach/athletic director Stacy Robinson. “It kind of makes sense, actually. This gives some space between the start of school and the start of fall sports.”
Union, though, will lose two exhibition games against rivals Mohawk and Neshannock.
“We just want to play some games,” Robinson said. “This is the world we’re living in, you can work and work and work and things still get changed.
“I just hope that no one’s overzealous,” he added. “We have to do this thing right and take the proper measures to stay safe.”
Neshannock co-athletic director Bobby Burkes had a bit of a different take than Robinson.
“I disagree with it, but I understand it,” he said. “We were really looking forward to playing at Shenango’s new turf field that first week. I think the place would have been packed. It would have been a big money game.
“But it’s a day and time when everybody has to give a little and live with it. You don’t want to play unnecessary games.”
Cross country, soccer, field hockey and girls volleyball season openers are delayed until Sept. 14. Golf and girls tennis can start on Aug. 24.
The WPIAL also reduced the number of regular-season contests allowed for each sport.
New WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said there was concern for schools trying to balance a sports season while starting classes under COVID-19 conditions.
Heat acclimatization for football can begin Aug. 10, as originally scheduled. Likewise, all fall sports are allowed to start practice Aug. 17.
The delayed start allows more practice time for teams that missed offseason workouts in the spring and summer. It also allows individual districts a chance to better implement their health and safety plans.
Soccer teams can play 16 games this fall. Tennis, golf, volleyball and field hockey are limited to 14. Cross country can have 12 meets.
The first date for football scrimmages is Sept. 3, which would have been Week 1 on the schedule. The WPIAL officially scheduled the first date for regular-season football games as a Thursday. Most teams may start that Friday instead, but the WPIAL is anticipating some Thursday games to alleviate a shortage of officials.
To delay football season, scheduled games from Weeks Zero, 1 and 2 were eliminated. There were no conference matchups in those weeks, making them easy to cut.
The WPIAL also revealed two football playoff formats, one if there are state playoffs and another if they’re canceled by the PIAA.
If there are state playoffs, the WPIAL will have a four-team bracket in Class 6A with the finals Nov. 6 or 7. Class 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A and A will have an eight-team bracket with finals Nov. 13 or 14.
If there are no state playoffs, the WPIAL will have only a two-round tournament and four qualifiers from each classification. The finals would be Nov. 6.
Class 6A would include the top four teams. Class 5A, 4A, 3A and A would take the three conference champions and one wild card. Class 2A would take only the four conference champions.