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COVID Chaos: Football Teams Across District 9, State Dealing With Scheduling Turmoil

CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Dave Eggleton has never seen anything like it.

Not as a head football coach at Clarion-Limestone from 2013-18. Not as an offensive coordinator at Central Clarion after C-L joined the co-op in 2019.

He’s seen it this year, though — more than he’d ever want to in a lifetime.


(Pictured above: Moniteau played Kane on Friday night, but the entire team went into quarantine Sunday evening because of COVID protocols at the school. Photo by Kathy Sutton)

This year, his first as the head coach of the Wildcats, things could not be more tumultuous for Eggleton and his program.

Thank the delta variant of COVID-19 for that.

The virus, thought to be under control just a month ago, has already wreaked havoc with high school football schedules across District 9, the state, and the country. As cases rise, it may be a turbulent fall in high school sports.

Central Clarion has been hit particularly hard by the scheduling upheaval COVID has brought.

The Wildcats’ scrimmage against Redbank Valley was canceled because of cases on the Wildcats’ roster two weeks ago. Last week, Central Clarion’s opponent, Punxsutawney, had its own COVID issues and canceled the game the night before, forcing Central Clarion to scramble for an opponent at the last minute. The Wildcats ended up playing at Slippery Rock, which had its own game against Fort LeBoeuf out of Erie canceled on Friday morning.

Then Monday, Central Clarion’s Week 2 opponent, Moniteau, canceled because of its COVID protocols.

“It’s so frustrating,” Eggleton said. “I mean, just the work you put in over the weekend and the week preparing for one team and then you have to throw all that work out the window. I can’t tell you how many hours our coaches put in.”

Not playing a scrimmage was particularly troublesome to Eggleton.

“I’ve never had to do that before,” he said. “We’ve always had a scrimmage before the first game.”

As of Tuesday night, Central Clarion was still searching for a possible opponent, but had been unsuccessful in finding a suitable matchup.

That leaves the coaches, players, and three schools in the football co-op (Clarion, North Clarion, and Clarion-Limestone) in limbo.

“We don’t know what to tell (the players),” Eggleton said.

Central Clarion is still practicing, either for a mystery opponent this week or Karns City next week.

“Our goal is to get better every day and every time we step on the practice field,” Eggleton said. “You want to be a better football player, and you want to be a better football team. That’s where we’re at. That’s what we’re going to keep working on this week. If we have a game Friday, great. If we don’t, we’re going to still get better this week.”

At Moniteau, the entire football team is in quarantine after a long trip to Kane on Friday.

Players found out about the COVID-19 issue with one player on Sunday night and the decision was made to cancel the game Monday morning, said Moniteau senior Maverick Sutton.

“With the whole team in quarantine, it makes it so hard,” Sutton said. “It was actually Sunday evening we got a call from the school that ended up quarantining the whole team. So, we were getting ready for the upcoming week against Central Clarion, and we got that call that kind of sidelined the whole team.”

Sutton wasn’t completely shocked. He had seen the rise in COVID cases in the region and feared something like this was bound to happen.

“Well, with COVID, it’s always a possibility of getting quarantined, but I was definitely surprised when I found out the whole team was quarantined,” Sutton said. “Even last year, every once in a while we’d have a couple of kids out, but to have the whole team knocked out like that was definitely a surprise.

“It was only one kid on the team,” Sutton added about what precipitated the quarantine.

Sutton, though, said he understands the decision. Moniteau was on a bus for a long trip to Kane and back. They shared a small locker room and played a contact sport.

“I think the reason the whole team was quarantined was because you don’t know who all was in contact with that individual for an extended period of time,” Sutton said.

The team is still meeting virtually and going over plays in a classroom setting. The quarantined players are also attending class online.

Sutton said the situation shouldn’t affect Moniteau’s Week 3 game at Ridgway.

“We’ll be back to school and back to practice next Tuesday,” Sutton said. “We’re definitely anxious to get back on the field.”

Moniteau superintendent Thomas Samosky said Monday the school has a COVID-19 Health and Safety Plan in place, and the decision to cancel was made based on that plan.

“We’re doing everything in our power to reschedule (the game against Central Clarion),” Samosky said.

“I think it’s a challenge for every school district,” he added. “We want to ensure that our kids still have a positive experience and have it be as normal as possible. But, we recognize that COVID-19 is not going away, and we need to be vigilant and implement protocols that ensure that all of our kids have access, not only to education, but to extracurricular activities.”

Central Clarion and Moniteau aren’t alone in the COVID struggles.

Already in adjacent District 10, Slippery Rock has had its first two opponents cancel games this season. In each case, the Rockets were able to pick up alternate opponents — Central Clarion in Week 1 and Sharpsville this week.

The Butler-Erie game was canceled on Tuesday because of COVID concerns at Butler. Saegertown also canceled because of its issues with the virus.

Cathedral Prep in Erie was set to play a high school team from Toronto, Canada. But, with the border now closed because of COVID, that game has also been scuttled.

Cochranton and Wilmington also won’t play this week.

That has coaches across District 9 holding their breath, hoping the other shoe won’t drop on their games before Friday night.

One coach, who preferred to not go on the record, said, “Every night I go to sleep thinking, ‘one more day closer to Friday. Let’s just hurry up and get there.’”

Now, other fall coaches have begun handwringing over the prospects of getting through their seasons unscathed.

Boys and girls soccer, volleyball, and cross country start this weekend. Golf has already begun.

“As a coach, you almost have to be concerned, especially because everyone’s getting back into school,” said Karns City girls soccer coach Tracy Dailey.

“You always have to be concerned about what kind of havoc COVID is going to play on your season. That’s why we’re trying to do the best we can with what we need to do to keep us safe. You hope we can get back to some type of normalcy. You just have to go day-by-day and see what happens.”