2020 Week 7 (Pennsylvania & Ohio)

2020 Week 7 (Pennsylvania & Ohio)

This week did not go as planned. After Pennsylvania had seen their attendance rules relaxed, a sudden reversal on Thursday afternoon reinstated the restrictions of 250 total people at the stadium. After having four Pennsylvania games set in place for Week 7, my weekend immediately got turned around.

Last week, for PA Football News, I had contacted several schools to cover their games. Two called me back in quick succession. Knoch followed by Union. I had hoped that someone would pick up the Union game, who was hosting Northgate, but instead we didn’t have anyone else to cover the game.

This week, my primary choice was Carlynton. But, that option never came to fruition. So, not wanting to pass up on Union, got in touch with them and confirmed I’d be covering their game against Cornell. Even with the Thursday news, things were still set for Friday night.

Thursday, though, was one option for me. Someone else was going to the Redbank Valley game. So, I had called Peters Township, and was able to get in without an issue. And even with the Thursday news, contacted them again to check if anything had changed but because of the late announcement, they were going with their expanded attendance policy for that game at least.

Saturday, though, was a different story. Western Beaver is a regular feature on PFN because of their Saturday afternoon games. And had no issue with squeezing me into the stadium for the game. The night game, though, was a different story. I had planned a two-plus hour drive to North East for their game against General McLane. However, I never got an answer on whether they were following the 250 policy, or if I would still get in under that 250. So, with a two hour drive, and two hour drive back, I changed up my Saturday plans. Someone else took the Western Beaver game, and I found options in Ohio.

So, for Thursday afternoon, it was a drive to the south side of Pittsburgh. I had just been in the area two weeks earlier for the Chartiers Valley game. I planned to attend a Peters Township game two years ago. However, plans changed and I went to Elizabeth Forward instead.

Thursday, I left early and stopped for a late lunch at Yukiyama in McMurray. Got the Unagi Donburi and it was amazing.

#23 Peters Township v. Upper St. Clair

Peters Township gave up a quick touchdown, but followed it with a safety and touchdown to take the lead. After a narrow 15-14 halftime lead thanks to a last play field goal. The second half started under a steady rain. Which was completely out of the forecast for the evening. But, after it cleared up, the Indians scored twice more before giving up a late TD to Upper St. Clair to make it 28-21.

This was my first time seeing Peters Township. I had seen Upper St. Clair once in a WPIAL Semifinal when they played Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Canon-McMillan’s Big Mac Stadium in Canonsburg.

After that, it was the long drive home. I took the ‘scenic’ route. Took route 551 through Darlington through Edinburg. It’s a long drive I hadn’t done in a while. Even at night. it’s a much more leisurely drive than the toll road or I-79.

Next afternoon, I had a ridiculously short drive. Union is the second closest high school stadium in Pennsylvania from my home. Only West Middlesex is a smidge closer.

#24 Union v. Cornell

Union is the last of the New Castle ‘area’ stadiums I’ve been to. Neshannock (north), Laurel (east), Shenango (south), New Castle (central) and Union (west). It’s actually a bit surprising it took me this long to get to a Union game. I had seen them play on the road previously at Shenango.

This was one of the most evenly matched games I think I’ve ever seen. The teams traded interceptions on back-to-back plays. They traded punt returns for touchdowns. Though, Union’s was called back due to a penalty.

It was 0-0 afte 1, and 6-6 at the break. Union would go down 12-6 late into the fourth quarter before scoring to tie it. An earlier TD pass was also called back due to a penalty that ended with a drive ending on a 4th and 34 play. But, with 3:36 left in the game, Union ran it in from 3 yards out for a TD. The PAT was converted, but again called back for a penalty. The retry was short. Cornell drove the field before throwing an INT that the momentum carried the defender into the endzone for the touchback. Union, then, had the ball with 1:39 remaining. Union then drove the field themselves, setting up a 1st and 10 at the Cornell 37 with 26 seconds left. A first down pass set them up at the Cornell 15 with 11 seconds left. Lacking a kicking game, Union was forced to play the field, and the QB attempted to run for it but was unable to reach the first down marker. Sending the game to overtime.

In overtime, Union scored first on the second play, a 5 yard run, and ran in the conversion to take their first lead of the game. Cornell answered with a 10 yard TD run on their first play. Then was stopped as the QB scrambled to elude a sack and was tackled short of the endzone along the sideline. Union 20, Cornell 18 (OT).

Union was a great stadium to see a game. It’s a grass field, but incredibly bright. The bandshell, sitting in the southern endzone next to the simple scoreboard. It also has a very nice wrap around the home stand overlooking the parking lot. Giving it a different feel. Not too many schools utilize something so simple that gives a stadium such a much better identity than plain, open substructure of the stands exposed to the visitors approaching it.

As for the game? I knew it might not have been the best teams playing. But, two competitive teams, evenly matched, putting it all out there makes for one hell of a game. Sometimes people get too caught up in which is the ‘marquee’ game or teams, when any game can be a great one when the teams are close competitively. Right now, this is one of the better games I’ve seen all year and deservedly so.

After the game, it was a quick drive home and get ready for a rather long drive to western Ohio. When I received no confirmation from my Saturday night scheduled game, I wasn’t about to make the two hour trip flying blind.

I did get confirmation for a different Saturday night game. But that meant my afternoon game was a toss-up as well. For one, I never received confirmation that I’d get in. In Ohio, there is no restrictions on media. Which make covering games in the Buckeye State so much easier under Covid than in Pennsylvania where every single person counts toward the total.

So, I took a chance. At a much too early for me 9am, I started heading west to Tiffin, Ohio. I did avoid the toll road, though I was skeptical that the Google Maps projection of being only two minutes longer than taking the Turnpike toward Norwalk and then cutting down to Tiffin would actually be the same as 224 from Lodi.

In Ohio, US routes tend to be fairly fast moving roadways. 250, 20, 30, 33, 35, 31, 27, 23, etc. Even 42 which parallels 71 most of the way is mostly efficient. 224 is no exception. Where I-76 ends at I-71, it continues as four-lane around Lodi, passing Cloverleaf HS, and then exits from 42 west of town. Then, it’s a straight shot for a long stretch. With just a few small towns and a few major crossroads featuring lights (such as with 250). Near Tiffin, you cut north on Route 100 into town.

Tiffin is an older town in Ohio. The town center is the quintessential small Midwest city. Frost-Kalnow Stadium is located behind the public high school, Columbian.

#25 Tiffin Calvert v. Hopewell-Loudon

Arriving there about 45 minutes prior to kickoff, a decent crowd had arrived for the small Division 7 matchup between Calvert and Hopewell-Loudon. Thw two schools are only 7 miles apart. Calvert, the Seneca, and Hopewell-Loudon, the Chieftains, are symbolic of this area of Ohio’s native history. It’s a common trope for schools to have some sort of native namesake. Though both foregoing the simplistic Indians moniker.

The stadium itself is a beautiful concrete structure built into the hillside behind Columbian High School. The corner of the track and field level is carved into the hillside with large concrete retaining walls. A large press box clues you in that not only do the two high schools play here, but Tiffin University also calls this stadium home. It’s a high quality venue with the multi-functional endzones in plain black with just the word “TIFFIN” in white.

Both teams came into the game undefeated. Calvert at 5-0 while Hopewell-Loudon was 4-0. The Chieftains came out with more firepower, scoring on a 27 yard TD pass before Calvert answered with a short field goal. The rest of the half belonged to Hopewell-Loudon, as the sun came out they put on their running shoes. Long plays: a 2 yard run following a long setup run, 60 yard run, 57 yard pass scored touchdowns. Making it 28-3 at intermission.

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

Hopewell-Loudon would get one more TD early in the third to setup the running clock in a game that felt much closer than the score. But with both teams heavily running the ball and retaining possession, ate through the second half. Until Calvert scored on a 29-yard TD pass with just 3:49 left in the game. That suspended the abbreviated timing rules, but left them too far down to do anything else as the OHSAA’s abridged regular season wound to an end. Hopewell-Loudon 35, Tiffin Calvert 10.

After the game, I met one of the sports writers for the local paper, and then headed out to Sandusky. It was a short drive and gave me the scenic look around Tiffin before heading out. I thought about stopping in Bellevue for an early dinner, but wanted to see the stadium at Perkins High School and then get something nearby.

Just east of Perkins is a main drag from the Route 2 freeway to Sandusky. A major drawing being the ubiquitous Cedar Point bringing many motorists through the area. I’ve stopped to eat at that very stop before. Once eating at the Longhorn not too far from the school.

Unfortunately, when I first looked for the game, I was expecting the game to be played at Sandusky’s Cedar Point Stadium. And I’m lucky I found out before checking up on it. This year, the St. Mary’s Central Catholic squad had moved their home games to Perkins’ Firelands Stadium.

#26 St. Mary’s Central Catholic v. Stryker

Now, this game is an 8-man game. In the state of Ohio, the OHSAA hasn’t been exactly encouraging of 8-man the way some other midwestern states are. Firstly, Ohio does not allow co-ops. Many western states allow co-ops. In some, it gets so ‘odd’ that you have teams the AHSTW or OABCIG in Iowa (though these are consolidations, not co-ops, but they’re allowed). AHSTW is a consolidation of Avoca, Hancock, Shelby, Walnut and Tennant. It was formerly just AHST until Walnut joined back in 2016. OABCIG is a consolidation of Odebolt, Arthur, Battle Creek, and Ida Grove. They’re called Oh’b-Cig by their fans.

One of my favorites was in Minnesota, which was Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke. Grygla and Gatzke were a consolidation, while they had a co-op with Goodridge. Also, the “North Central” co-op team was actually a co-op of a co-op and a consolidation. Kelliher and Northome had a co-op, while Littlefork-Big Falls was a consolidation. The co-op then formed another co-op with Littlefork-Big Falls to form the unwieldy Kelliher/Northome/Littlefork-Big Falls. Which was, thankfully, abbreviated to North Central, given then huge territory in the North Central part of the start southwest of International Falls.

Even Pennsylvania has co-ops, though they tend to almost exclusively denote the ‘host’ school by name. Though a few co-ops have ‘new names’ or a combined name. Union and Allegheny-Clarion Valley co-op and formed Union/ACV. A notable one, given their size, is USO in Pittsburgh. A co-op of University Prep, Science & Tech, and Obama Academy. But then other co-ops such as Warren and Youngsville is just ‘Warren’. A new one, recently, involving District 9, is Central Clarion County. Clarion had a longstanding co-op with Northern Clarion County for football, but went by just the ‘Clarion’ name, while Clarion-Limestone from just east of town in Strattansville were forced to co-op and their combined name, to avoid the simple use of “Clarion’ or ‘Clarion County’ was to create an entirely new name for the football team.

With that little sidetrack done, the other thing in Ohio is that their use of 8-man for very small schools struggling to field 11 man teams has been minimal at best. The lack of a statewide structure with playoffs make many teams see 8-man as ‘less than’.

I’ve seen enough 6, 8, and 9 man games around the country to know that they are not ‘less than’. Those kids play football. Good football. Entertaining football. They represent and are supported by their communities no different than any other football team.

Being a very small private school in a large city in Ohio, St. Mary’s Central Catholic will always struggle with both support from beyond their school’s alumni and parents, and also on the field. They play with what’s there.

Stryker, meanwhile, is a school that had gone almost a century without football before starting an 11-man team and then immediately jumping to 8-man. The small adhoc Northern 8 Conference was made up of northwestern Ohio schools that were playing 8-man the past two seasons.

For the game at Perkins, instead of tape or temporary chalk paint for the sidelines, small yellow discs were set on every 5 yard line to denote the line and it was up to the officials to delineate the true line in an close encounters with the phantom border.

It was senior night, and the various groups got to walk along the track to be announced before their fans. The game started with a band performance you don’t see often from small private schools. Usually the band is minimal in my experience. But, not at SMCC. They’d also do a full halftime performance.

For the game itself, it was a battle of Panthers. SMCC would score first, get a two-point conversion, and then Stryker would answer themselves, trailing 8-6 at the half. But the second half was mostly the white and blue Panthers, not the Navy and Gold home-standing Panthers. Stryker would get two touchdowns in the third, and two more in the fourth. SMCC would manage two more of their own in the fourth to keep it respectable. But, errant snap exchanges were a trouble spot for them most of the game. Including one that was scooped up and ran back about 70 yards for a touchdown for Stryker in the high scoring second half. Stryker 36, St. Mary’s Central Catholic 22.

St. Mary’s Central Catholic expect to return to 11-man next year. With only 2 seniors and currently 23 on the roster. Their numbers look decent to handle the rigors of a D7, 11-man slate.

After the game, it was a long drive home. Just about 2.5 hours. Though I had taken my EZPass in my car, the quick finish despite no running clock, I decided to take the free route. Route 2 to I-90 to 176 to I-480 to Route 14 through Streetsboro and Ravenna and I-76 to Youngstown. Just a brief stop for gas…

For the weekend, I drove 543 miles, and only spent $100. Only non-food expense was $2 for the program at Calvert. I got a roster sheet for free at the SMCC game Saturday night. I didn’t get anything at the Peters Township or Union games. And gas was once again a non-issue being local.

Photos of the Week

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Pennsylvania

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 HSF Wk 7 Ohio

2020 Season

26 Games
51 Teams
26 Stadiums
6 States

27 New Teams (Week 7: Peters Twp, Cornell, Calvert, SMCC, and Stryker)
21 New Stadiums (Week 7: All 4)

1,191 different teams
357 different stadiums*

1,064 total games

*-I have to make a correction in my list. My week to week changes had been accurate. But, my starting point was skewed. I recently added my new stadiums to my map (link HERE). And when I did, I realized my count was off. It turns out, it appears, that I had added the two stadiums in Week 0 to my tally, and then somehow added the two stadiums to that tally again before tweeting out my up to date total. How I missed that, I’m not sure.

I know my 2019 recap was accurate. I take the time each season to recalculate my totals to make sure I didn’t miss anything along the way. This year, I attempted to keep track weekly in the hope that verifying things off the previous week would avoid a mistake. I was,… mistaken. It’s easy to be wrong when your starting number was wrong.

For more, and larger, photos from this week, click HERE.

For photos from previous weekends and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

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