Jeannette, Avella consider rescheduling football game but agree to play Friday night

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019 | 3:29 PM


Jeannette and Avella school administrators discussed moving this week’s football game to a different date or time, but ultimately agreed to play the game as scheduled.

The teams will play at 7 p.m. Friday at McKee Stadium. Avella had raised concerns in the wake of last week’s fatal shooting outside Jeannette’s stadium.

“We’ve had several communications with representatives from Avella,” Jeannette superintendent Matthew Jones said. “Not only the superintendents, but the athletic directors have been speaking and even the coaches. I’ve also had contact with Tim O’Malley from the WPIAL, talking about some of our options. As far as the game itself is concerned, we plan to address it business as usual.”

Dameian L. Williams, 48, was fatally shot outside the stadium while the Jayhawks were playing Imani Christian last Friday. Greg A. Harper, 40, of Jeannette was arrested within minutes of the shooting.

The Jeannette School District intends to hire a private security company that will station four additional guards at the stadium Friday, complementing a contingent of officers from the Jeannette Police Department and state police.

“Our district wanted to be reassured that Jeannette would take some measures to further ensure student and fan safety during the game,” Avella superintendent Cyril Walther said. “My communications with their superintendent have stressed that that has been done — and in my opinion, done well. As we speak right now, we plan to show up Friday night and play a football game.”

Walther’s primary concern now was whether Avella had enough healthy athletes to compete. The Eagles have fewer than 20 players on the roster and likely will dress only 13 or 14 for the game, he said.

“We have to see what happens with the (injured players in the) concussion protocol,” Walther said. “But it’s looking like those kids are going to be OK to play.”

This is a nonconference game that does not affect playoff qualifying. Jeannette won 55-7 last season when the teams played at Avella.

Walther said he saw no reason to cancel the game since the shooting wasn’t student-related, adding also that there’s no animosity between Avella and Jeannette fans.

“There’s concern any time you go anywhere,” Walther said. “The bottom line is, the world we live in right now is probably not one we want to leave for our children. There’ve been so many acts of violence against schools and against school districts that it’s a concern. But this issue wasn’t student-related.”

Jones agreed.

“We want to return to a state of normalcy,” Jones said. “For us, that’s a 7 o’clock kickoff on a Friday night. That’s usually the highlight of the week for a lot of our patrons. It’s the highlight of the week for a lot of our community.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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