George Guido: New River Valley High envelops Saltsburg, Blairsville

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Saturday, June 19, 2021 | 10:07 PM


A new high school on the horizon.

Blairsville and Saltsburg will be merging July 1 and will become River Valley High School.

That same day, the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District will be officially known as the River Valley School District.

The new school will be called the Panthers and will wear Aero blue and black uniforms — a far cry from Blairsville’s orange and black and Saltsburg’s red and white.

The school’s football coach will be Jess Houser, 44, a 1995 Blairsville graduate. Kelsey Ferguson will be the athletic director.

River Valley will be a member of the Heritage Conference in PIAA District 6. It will become the second conference merger since Ligonier Valley and Laurel Valley consolidated in 2010.

The opening in the Heritage Conference will be filled by Portage High School of Cambria County.

The old school district has tried to consolidate the schools for years, but Saltsburg always has been able to stay separate. In, fact, a parents group has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to keep Saltsburg on its own. So don’t put your Trojans red and white paraphernalia in the Saltsburg Stone House Museum just yet.

For years, Saltsburg sports were covered by the former Tarentum Valley Daily News and both schools by the former Greensburg Tribune-Review.

Exler to Geneva hall

There’s another Exler headed for the Geneva College Athletics Hall of Fame.

Erin Exler Bish, a 1999 Springdale graduate and a 2003 Geneva grad, will be inducted into the college’s hall October 30.

She and 12 others will be recognized at halftime of the Geneva football game against Waynesburg at Reeves Stadium.

The induction comes on the heels of her sister Erica Exler Cresta’s induction in 2018.

Erica is a year older than Erin, but with Erica sitting out a year because of a hamstring injury, both Exler girls finished in the same academic class at Geneva.

Erin’s excellence came as both a hitter and a pitcher. In 2002, Erin batted .441 and had 36 RBIs on just 63 base hits. In the circle, Erin’s 1.37 ERA in 2000 is still the school’s single-season record. She was twice an NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) All-American selection.

“Erin Exler was one of the best softball players to ever wear a Geneva uniform,” said Van Zanic, the school’s athletic director and softball coach. “She proved to be one of the foundational athletes that helped put Geneva softball on the map … both as a hitter and a top-level pitcher. Her induction is quite honestly a no-brainer and is absolutely well-deserved.”

The Exler girls also are well-known for their role in the classic, 20-inning game against Sto-Rox in the 1998 PIAA quarterfinals. Erin caught Erica’s 291 pitches in 80-degree heat before Sto-Rox pushed across the winning run 1-0.

Geneva expects to announce soon if there will be an induction dinner as covid restrictions ease.

Armstrong softball

The Armstrong High School softball team deserves a shout out for its rise to the PIAA finals in just the sixth season of the school’s existence.

The River Hawks lost the Class 5A title game Friday to Lampeter-Strasburg, 10-7.

With just one senior starter, chances are Armstrong could make another run soon.

It was the first time an Armstrong County school made the state finals since Leechburg in 1995. The Blue Devils defeated Annville-Cleona, 3-0, at Shippensburg.

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