By Chris Rossetti
Whether we want to admit it or not, it’s August which means the 2013-14 school year is just around the corner and that means it’s time to start thinking about the Fall sports season.
As sort of a prelude to that season, the 40th annual Don Raabe Big 30 Pennsylvania/New York All-Star football game was held Saturday night in front of a packed crowd at Bradford’s Parkway Field.
Pennsylvania, behind the talents of the a host of kids from Warren County and Port Allegany, whipped up on New York. But that isn’t the overriding thing that came from the game.
The thing that stuck out the most to me was how the officials made it their show.
Twenty-three (yes that is 23) penalties were called in the game – it’s an All-Star game for Pete’s sake. You expect some penalties in a football game, but not 23 and especially not in an All-Star game and surely not some of the one’s that were called like an excessive celebration penalty on Pennsylvania after it scored a touchdown – it’s an All-Star game, the kids are having fun, let them have fun – or the two or three illegal man down field penalties – does anyone really care that a lineman went two or three yards down the field on a play?
The worst part of it had to be when it was pointed out to the officials during the game that it was an All-Star game and the kids should be the show not them, one actually responded by saying “Well they aren’t playing like All-Stars”. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Yeah it was a chippy game to an extent but it is football. Let the kids play.
But then again, it seems the folks in charge of the game including the officials believe that it is about them and not about the kids.
The game gets great attendance and seems to get some decent community support and a lot of that is a credit to the players and coaches and the local media, which hypes it like it’s the Major League All-Star game. Yet when D9Sports called a committee member during the week to say we would be covering the game, we were told we would have to pay to get in and cover the athletes and give them the pub (we were able to convince the people at the gate this was dumb but the principle of the matter is stupid). Then a reporter for the Bradford Era was challenged by the same committee member as to whether or not he had a sideline pass while taking notes during the game (for the record his sideline pass was clearly visible). The Bradford Era (along with the Olean Times Herald) is one of the biggest supporters of this game. To see one of their established reporters challenged needlessly like this makes one wonder if the game is about the players or is about a power trip for the committee members.
Speaking of power trips, in case you missed it during the summer, the Bradford school board went on one and, for lack of a better word, fired girls’ basketball coach Ann Nuzzo, who had lost all of four games in the past two seasons while winning a pair of District 9 Class AAA titles.
Why let go such a successful coach? Well simply put, some friends of the board members didn’t like the fact their daughters weren’t starting or weren’t playing. Of course this isn’t what was being said publicly, well not much was being said publicly, but that is the gist of the story.
And now the Lady Owls haven’t had a coach all summer, have missed out on summer leagues and practices and may not know who the new coach is until school starts if not later. That is a perfect recipe of how to ruin a very successful program.
On the other hand, Clarion-Limestone might finally be heading in the right direction with its football program with the hiring of former star player Dave Eggleton, who played for the Lions during their District 9 championship runs of the mid-2000s. Eggleton not only was a great player for the Lions, he has seen success outside of C-L as well first as an assistant at Redbank Valley and then as an assistant the past few years under Clarion’s legendary head coach Larry Wiser. Eggleton, in fact, has either played for or coached with some of the top coaches in recent District 9 history including Wiser, Todd Smith and Clyde Conti. Now C-L’s program might not see immediate turnaround, but if Eggleton is given a chance – never a given at C-L – he should get that program turned around in the next couple of seasons.
Speaking of Clarion, the Bobcats have to be considered the favorite to win District 9 Class A this year after being runner-up to Port Allegany the last two seasons. Clarion has an experienced quarterback in John Katis as well as one of the best running backs in District 9 in Damien Slike. But it won’t be an easy road. Clarion will get big challenges from Brockway with quarterback Alec Shaffer-Doan leading the way, Curwensville, which is led by running back Zach Tibbens and Port Allegany, who will have to replace a ton but still has an exciting player in running back Tyler Shaffer who will take pressure off of first-year starting quarterback Jordan Seefeldt.
Hearing a lot of talk that the Gators might get a challenge in the AML North from of all schools, Otto-Eldred. The Terrors won three games under Virgil Graham last year, but the former Otto star, who is entering his fourth season, has slowly started to build the program which returns the talented Dakota Vaughn and Sam Colebert along with a host of others from last year’s team.
Staying in the AML, the league is down a team this year with Johnsonburg and Ridgway cooping to form one team this season. That problem could be rectified next season, as word in Bradford Saturday night was Eisenhower would be rejoining the AML. The Knights had been a part of the AML for years while being a member of District 10. It is possible Eisenhower may stay in District 10, but there was also a though they may want to join District 9 full time. No confirmation on any of the above, but it would make an interesting dynamic in football, as the Knights usually have competitive teams.
Oh, and before we go, stay tuned to D9sports in the next couple of weeks for an exciting announcement about the football season.