Thursday was a stressful day for Lawrence County athletic directors.
After resetting schedules weeks ago when the go-ahead was given for practice to begin in the WPIAL and PIAA, all teams now All athletic events were put on a three-week hold by Governor Tom Wolf in an attempt to cut down on the second wave of coronavirus illnesses and deaths that have occurred since Thanksgiving.
“It’s been nothing but a nightmare since the announcement was made at 4 o’clock this afternoon,” longtime New Castle athletic director Sam Flora said. “I figured it was coming, but when you actually hear it’s happening, it’s just a punch in the gut. Now the WPIAL and the teams are going to have to redo schedules that have already been redone.
“I belong to a (chat) group with a bunch of athletic directors and most of us agree, why don’t they just say they’re starting Feb. 1, play a shorter season, then start your spring sports in June. This way it’s uniform and a lot less work would have to be done.
“You have to remember that many of these kids already lost their spring seasons last year. You don’t want to take an entire season away again.”
New Castle coach Ralph Blundo, who already is a high school principal at New Castle, is especially distraught.
“When we heard we had the option of playing tonight, there was no question in my mind that we would play," Blundo said. "I called Mrs. DeBlasio (superintendent Debbie DeBlasio) and we agreed that this was the one thing we could give the kids, this one game Friday night.”
New Castle already lost the Sharon and Westinghouse boys, along with the Riverside and Aliquippa girls, for various reasons in the New Castle Tipoff Tournament.
“Ralph got Kennedy Catholic to come in but they changed their mind a couple of times,” Flora said. “Finally yesterday, they confirmed they were coming. But if somebody on your team comes down with COVID, you’re going to be starting all over with the quarantines once again.
The Ne-Ca-Hi Fieldhouse will be empty Friday night, with the exception of parents of players, cheerleaders and the pep band.
“No one else,” Flora said. “No exceptions. Varsity players will get four tickets each and JV players two. They can decide who they bring.”
Since the shutdown doesn’t begin until Saturday, teams had the option of playing Friday night. Some are playing doubleheaders. Union and Ellwood City Lincoln canceled their games all together.
Union athletic director Stacy Robinson has a bit of a different view.
“I’m glad the governor shut it down, it’s so far out of control,” he said. “So you take a break and start back up Jan. 4.”