Westmoreland County high school football notebook: Covid-19 halts momentum

Wednesday, October 14, 2020 | 7:22 PM

Covid-19 has found its way into Westmoreland County schools, and the virus has caused four local football programs to shut down.

Penn-Trafford, Hempfield, Derry and Southmoreland shelved team activities and canceled games this week, causing disruptions in preparation and a halt in momentum with only two weeks left in the regular season.

Norwin also reported covid cases and closed school buildings but continued with athletics.

Penn-Trafford had to cancel its game against Gateway last Sunday night — a game already rescheduled after Gateway closed over covid-19 — because of positive covid tests. The Warriors were not able to practice until Wednesday, giving them two days to get ready for Connellsville on Friday night.

Hempfield and Derry, meanwhile, announced closures Monday after positive covid tests, and both canceled games for Friday. Hempfield was supposed to play Central Catholic at Graham Field in Wilkinsburg, and Derry was home to East Allegheny.

Hempfield also canceled next week’s home game against North Allegheny.

Southmoreland announced Wednesday it has covid cases and will endure a five-day shutdown. The Scotties’ game Friday against Brownsville is postponed.

All four county teams likely will play a six-game regular season.

Hempfield will be shut down until the end of the week and most sports teams will resume activities after three students initially were found to have the virus.

A Hempfield football team member tested positive too, however, so the team has to quarantine for 14 days, virtually ending the season.

Derry won’t open until early next week after five school district employees showed positive tests.

“It’s been difficult to break routine,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “We haven’t seen our guys since Thursday other than online meetings. We will have to squeeze in four days of practice periods into two days and shake off rust while doing so. It’s unprecedented, but everything has been since March. We need to adapt and not make excuses.”

Derry coach Vince Skillings called the shutdown at his school a surprise. His team had some momentum after a win over Valley.

“The coaching staff had put together a very solid gameplan for East Allegheny and was excited to see how well the players would execute it during the week,” he said. “We feel that the team was starting to come into its own and was beginning to gain some momentum. When the announcement came, it was like a punch to the gut.”

Southmoreland has to halt team activities until Tuesday.

Skillings said the players’ conditioning is a concern moving forward.

“A week is a long time to be off, so in a virtual meeting we encouraged the players to do some running and physically demanding things every day in an effort to maintain their strength and conditioning,” he said. “That’s the toughest part of this week, not being able to practice and time things up. It’s tough enough for colleges and NFL teams to maintain momentum when off for a week with practices. How much more so for a high school team off for a week with no practices?”

Back to back?

Southmoreland celebrated its first WPIAL playoff trip in 40 years last season. Will the Scotties get to do it again?

It’s a long shot — it will take some serious work and probably a little help — but could happen.

The Scotties won’t play Friday’s game against winless Brownsville due to a covid-19 shutdown. Officials from both schools are trying to reschedule the game.

Southmoreland never has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. That’s because its only other appearance came in 1979.

“It would be a great accomplishment for this group of kids,” Scotties coach Dave Keefer said.

The Scotties are 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the Class 3A Interstate Conference with two games left. They are in fourth place behind Mt. Pleasant (4-1, 4-0), Elizabeth Forward (4-0, 3-0) and South Park (3-2, 3-1).

The WPIAL will take the top two teams in each of the three 3A conferences, along with two wild-card teams.

Southmoreland finished 8-0 in 1964, its first year, but did not have enough Gardner Points to reach the WPIAL title game. Only conference winners played for championships.

Montour defeated Avonworth that year for the Class AA title in a final at Jeannette’s McKee Stadium.

Warm reception

Matt Metrosky is the starting center at Greensburg Central Catholic. But the senior did more than snap the ball last week in a 41-20 win at Riverview.

Metrosky caught a pass from quarterback David Altimore. With pressure coming from his blind side, Altimore quickly dumped the ball off to Metrosky, who sprang open and gained 14 yards on the play — “Just like we drew it up,” as the GCC Twitter account posted.

Metrosky (6-foot-1, 280 pounds) also had some fun with the catch.

“First of many receptions, I think I’m also up for the Heisman,” he tweeted.

He also made a Twitter poll asking if he should get the ball more.

Altimore threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more in the win.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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