WPIAL football changes scuttle marquee matchups for Westmoreland County teams

Saturday, August 8, 2020 | 7:00 AM

Week Zero, as a name, never seemed to carry much clout in the WPIAL. The moniker was met with a lukewarm reaction and did not make sense to many people when it became a thing several years ago.

Many teams just decided to use the opening week for a second scrimmage instead of a game.

Still, Week Zero meant the kickoff of a new season and often came with multiple backyard rivalry games for a host of programs.

With all of the moving parts and fluidity of covid-19 times, 2020 schedules have been cut and squeezed, and the WPIAL is planning on teams playing seven games apiece before the playoffs.

Week Zero took a hit when the WPIAL hacked away three weeks of the season to create a post-Labor Day start. That part of the slate is gone — as in zero games and zero rivalry matchups to open the season.

Westmoreland County teams, in particular, saw notable matchups fall to the cutting room floor.

Hempfield at Greensburg Salem, a much anticipated local game, and another in Norwin at Penn-Trafford, were slashed.

Most teams will be champing at the bit for a chance to hit the field — and hit someone. The first opponent is becoming more irrelevant as this thing develops.

Greensburg Salem is one win away from 700 but will take assurance there will be a first game before it talks about who it would like to beat for the milestone.

“Playing any games has become a greater priority than playing specific games,” Greensburg Salem coach Dave Keefer said. “Our guys just want the opportunity to compete. The Hempfield rivalry can wait. Right now, the focus is on playing football.”

Heat acclimatization is now scheduled to begin Aug. 24, following the PIAA’s recent decision to delay the fall season by two more weeks and again reevaluate the situation.

Derry at Latrobe, Plum at Franklin Regional, Southmoreland at McGuffey and Indiana at Ligonier Valley were other Week Zero matchups of note.

Southmoreland-McGuffey would have been a playoff rematch, while Ligonier Valley would have played its first game in the WPIAL in five decades in front of home fans.

Losing the Norwin game stings but Penn-Trafford is moving ahead with the hopes of simply playing a full season.

“We hate to lose the ability to play that game,” Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane said. “It’s always packed and always a good game. I know it would have been empty this year but still not ideal to not play it.

“We can’t really do anything but go with the schedule they’ve given us.”

The season is scheduled to open Sept. 10-11.

The WPIAL had teams turn their Week 1 game into a scrimmage and move their Week 9 games into the Week 1 slot.

For instance, Penn-Trafford was set to finish the regular season at home against Latrobe. Now, the Wildcats will open against the Warriors.

Penn-Trafford at Hempfield went from a Week 1 game to a scrimmage.

“We now have a conference foe in Latrobe Week 1,” Ruane said. “So the game is very meaningful, which will force us to prepare over the next several weeks.”

Jeannette was set to open against East Allegheny, but with that matchup dashed, the Jayhawks suddenly get Clairton as their opener on Sept. 11 at McKee Stadium.

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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