WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.
However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni.
“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”
The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.
The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.
“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”
Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.
“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”
The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.
Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.
Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.
By Jose Umana and Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributors
BETHESDA — Two of the state’s largest school districts have announced the cancellation of fall sports for the 2020 season.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the school system will provide virtual-only learning for the first semester. The model also includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports.
Ever since MCPS leaders have been exploring different methods to reopen schools in the fall, they have received additional guidance from Travis Gayles from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.
According to Smith, Gayles recommended that in-person instruction should not take place in school buildings. Instead, MCPS’ original plan of going virtual-only learning for at least until the end of the first semester on Jan. 29, 2021, or when state and local health officials approve their return would be the safer option.
“This decision includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports,” Smith said.
Smith said MCPS would reassess after the first quarter (Nov. 9) to determine if it can implement a phased blended model in the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, 2021.
“We will continue to engage with our community as we continue to navigate this incredibly complex situation,” Smith said.
The sports that are affected include football, basketball, indoor track, wrestling, volleyball, cross country, soccer, field hockey and swimming.
“When the time comes for us to return to action, we will do what we do best–provide meaningful opportunities for our student-athletes to excel and bring our communities together,” Sullivan said.
PGCPS puts athletics on hold during distant learning phase
Montgomery County’s decision comes as Prince George’s County Schools (PGCPS) announced its decision to put athletics on hold for the fall semester last Wednesday.
During her press conference about the school system’s reopening plans, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson said she had to address athletics after receiving “daily” questions on its status. When school starts on Aug. 31, PGCPS will open virtually with distance learning until the end of the second quarter on Jan. 29, 2021.
With the focus on ensuring the proper education and safety to students during the pandemic, Goldson said PGCPS could not operate athletics when the school year begins.
“At this time, we will not be able to implement interscholastic activities that will allow our students to remain safe,” Goldson said.
Instead, all student-athletes will be able to work together with their school’s athletic directors in virtual seminars. Other accommodations will be made for student-athletes who were preparing for recruiting and applying for college, according to a Twitter town hall PGCPS conducted.
Unlike MCPS, Goldson did not say when the hold on sports would end. In a statement, the Office of Interscholastic Athletics said as PGCPS enters the next phase of virtual learning, athletics will restart at “the lowest risk of participation” for students and staff, including at-home conditioning, a virtual re-introduction of athletics and additional online resources.
“We will continue to keep you updated around the state as decisions are made surrounding athletic sports, but we will be offering opportunities for students in their clubs and organizations to continue virtually,” Goldson said.
Both counties’ decisions come after Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced the state’s education system voted in favor of allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic programs.
Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties will all go virtual learning in the fall. However, only Baltimore County has joined Montgomery and Prince George’s in postponing their fall and winter athletic season.
MPSSAA released its Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics, which provides detailed guidelines for how counties should handle any cancelation of activities, modified and gradual resumption of sports and full resumption and administration of activities.
The state’s athletic association will update and modify the fall practice schedule on July 21 and 28 and Aug. 4. Depending on the number of schools participating in a regular season, MPSSAA will determine the status of the fall state championships in October.
Three high school athletics associations in the D.C.-metropolitan region announced their decisions to delay the start of the fall sports season as schools prepare to administer classes during the coronavirus pandemic.
DCSAA plans to move football, fall sports to 2021
On late Thursday, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) said it would start its athletic season with winter sports in December, moving fall sports to 2021. Cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball will instead begin to play in February 2021 and end their season on April 16, according to a news release.
“Given the current environment, it just is not feasible to begin practice Aug. 1 and competition later that month,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “The safety of student-athletes and coaches remains our top priority.”
Ray said all of 49 public, charter and independent (private and parochial) member high schools were consulted before the decision was announced.
Going forward, the DCSAA will follow a “Condensed Interscholastic Plan” with the winter sports starting their playing schedules first. Team practices begin on Dec. 14 with games reduced to a two-month competition between Jan. 4 to Feb. 28. Meanwhile, spring athletics starts from April 19 until June 13.
DCSAA will need the final approval from Mayor Muriel Bowser as well as the D.C. Department of Health to go forward with the new athletic schedule. Ray called the reduced plan “the best solution” based on the current data and science that assures students will have the opportunity to play during the 2020-21 school year.
“These are unprecedented times, and first and foremost, the DCSAA remains committed to the welfare of our student-athletes,” Chairperson Rosalyn Overstreet-Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful this model will keep all of our incredible student-athletes engaged and focused and also allow them to take the court or the field this school year and showcase their talents.”
Individual conferences that host private and independent schools within DCSAA can still have their member institutions participate in athletics in a different schedule.
The most recognized private school league in the D.C.-area, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), has yet to announce its decision to hold a fall season.
MIAA, IAAM delay start until late September
In a joint statement, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) announced the delayed start to their 2020 fall season, as practices will start on Sept. 1 and games will take place after Sept. 21.
The two governing bodies of private school sports, representing boys (MIAA) and girls (IAAM) of over 30 institutions, were set to start training camps in mid-August.
The two-week pushback will also include the waiver of blackout periods and out of season practice policies until further notice.
While the start dates are in September, the board of governors of both leagues will meet in August to determine if the delay needs to be extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Once an official start date is confirmed, a newly revised schedule for fall athletics will be released, the statement said.
“Participation in healthy athletic practices provides our student-athletes opportunities to compete, build character, acquire, and improve skills, demonstrate leadership, and have fun,” the statement said. “Both leagues hope to honor this commitment and, at the same time, keep athletes and their coaches as healthy as possible.”
Public schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have announced their intentions to start their school years virtually but not if fall athletics will remain as scheduled.
In early June, the Maryland State Board of Education passed a resolution that would allow area public school systems the flexibility to schedule their interscholastic athletics based on “local conditions” created by COVID-19.
Four-star linebacker will take his talents to SEC football powerhouse
BALTIMORE — DeMatha linebacker Greg Penn III, a four-star recruit and highly touted prospect of prominent college football programs, announced his commitment to Louisiana State University (LSU) on Sunday afternoon.
The rising senior recently narrowed his school list down to six: LSU, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. Of those six, he was expected to commit to either LSU or South Carolina.
On July 6, Penn posted on Twitter that he would publicly decide on July 12, leaving hundreds in anticipation of the announcement.
In a three-and-a-half-minute video posted to Penn’s Instagram page, he announced his commitment to the 2020 NCAA football championship program.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for the gifts that he has provided both on and off the football field. I also want to thank the many coaches and universities for recognizing my talents,” said Penn, who helped the Stags to a 7-4 record in 2019.
“Through this journey, my family has been my biggest fan…they are my reason why. I would like to thank my dad for encouraging me to strive for greatness, academically and athletically. I am thankful for my current and former coaches, as well as my trainers for believing in me.
“A special thanks to my DeMatha brothers, the DeMatha administration, and teachers who helped me to be the best version of myself. To whom much is given, much is expected. Therefore, I will be taking my gifts to the Louisiana State University.”
Penn, a tenacious pass rusher with a 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame, is regarded as a good fit for LSU’s defensive scheme. Past conversations and encounters between LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and Penn likely played a large part in the prospect’s decision.
“They have a great track record of getting linebackers to the league,” Penn said according to a rivals.com report. “Coach Pelini and I really have a great relationship. Over the last couple of months, our relationship has really gone to the next level and I just feel comfortable there. I could really just see myself playing in that stadium when I went to that Florida game. I really got chills and I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”
Penn is the latest addition in LSU’s prolific 2020 recruiting class, many of whom are nationally ranked defensive standouts at their respective high school programs.
A 24/7 Sports report noted Penn’s characterization of LSU as LBU (‘linebacker university’), a reference to the school’s pipeline of linebackers into the NFL over recent years. Penn hopes to join the class of elite DeMatha athletes to make his mark on the collegiate level when he transitions to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2021.
The Washington Redskins selected Ohio State University standout Chase Young with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Let’s take a look back at the Upper Marlboro native’s growth in photos from DeMatha Catholic High School to the Buckeyes. Photos by Phillip Peters/The Sports Pulse
WASHINGTON – With cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 growing in the metropolitan region, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) announced its decision to cancel this year’s spring sports season on April 17.
Officials worked with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office before canceling its season and promised to continue promoting the city’s tips to stay healthy during the pandemic. Established in 2012, DCSAA is comprised of 49 of the city’s public, public charter and independent (private and parochial) high schools according to its website.
“We are disappointed for those student-athletes who will not have the opportunity to compete and showcase their skills during their senior season,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “But we fully support the mayor’s decision and recognize the importance we collectively play in helping to flatten this curve and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”
Before the cancelation was confirmed, D.C. Public Schools announced its decision to continue online learning for the rest of the school year. During a presentation on April 17, Bowser confirmed that school buildings would remain closed, and the city’s stay-at-home order was extended until May 15.
Spring sports in the District include baseball, cheerleading, chess, outdoor track and field, softball, tennis and ultimate frisbee. Multiple teams began their campaigns and played 1-2 games before the shutdown in March.
“People need to follow all the recommendations issued by the CDC, the District of Columbia Department of Health, and the mayor,” Ray said. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and school administrators are our number one priority.”
DCSAA’s decision comes after both Virginia High School League (VHSL) and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) canceled their spring seasons in March. Both leagues cited the need to support the state’s call to close all public and private schools. Spring sports in Virginia are baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and outdoor track.
District schools who participate in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) had their conference games paused after Commissioner Steve Colantuoni announced the suspension of all athletic activities on March 16. He added that officials were attempting to create “a modified schedule” for the spring season, a task made harder with both D.C. and Virginia closed.
Big 33 Football Classic nixed
Meanwhile, the Big 33 Football Classic showcase, an annual senior football all-star game featuring top players from Pennsylvania and Maryland, has been called.
In a letter to coaches, participants, and fans on April 14, Executive Director Gary Cathell said the “uncertainty” caused by the spread of COVID-19 forced event officials to cancel all events related to the showcase, which would have taken place on Memorial Day on May 25.
“It is about protecting our players and fans,” Team Maryland Director Scott Ripley said. “I am truly disappointed for the players selected to this year’s team. They will be missing out on something that they would never forget in a lifetime. We wish them total success in college this coming fall.”
Maryland is the only state in the region whose public and private school leagues have yet to announce its spring season plans. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), which works with the state’s public schools, suspended all athletic activities on March 27, including the semifinal and final rounds of the boys and girls basketball tournament.
As of April 18, MPSSAA has not announced its plans as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan extends distant learning for students until May 15. If any spring competitions were to take place after May 23, the association would need to pass an amendment to extend the athletic calendar, according to its handbook.
Schools associated with The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) had its postponement extended on March 30. In a joint statement, both leagues said they would work together to formulate a plan to restart their seasons.
“The leadership of the MIAA and IAAM remain hopeful that both leagues will be able to offer our student-athletes an opportunity to return to play at some point this season,” the statement said. “Both leagues will continue in their efforts to consider possible options dependent upon the re-opening of schools.”
By José Umaña The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer
HYATTSVILLE – Following the surprise resignation of head coach Eric Wallich from the Damascus High School football program in January, it would only take the Swarmin’ Hornets one month to fill up the vacancy.
Josh Klotz, who spend the last eight years coaching at Richard Montgomery High School, will take over as the new head football coach following the release of a joint letter on Feb. 20 by Athletic Director Cliff Elgin and Principal Kevin Yates.
Klotz led the Rockets to five consecutive playoff appearances and was named the 2015 Montgomery County Sentinel Coach of the Year.
“We strongly felt that Mr. Klotz brought the most to our program based on his interview, and his work with previous programs,” Elgin and Yates said in the letter. “I ask you for your support in welcoming Coach Klotz to Damascus High School in helping ensure a smooth transition for our student-athletes.”
It only took a month to fill in the coaching vacancy following Wallich’s resignation. The former head coach stated in January that he would be a part of the selection process as Elgin said that the school would take some time before starting the search.
Klotz and Wallich coached together at Quince Orchard High School in 2007. In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Wallich congratulated the hire and wished his former colleague all the best in filling in the role. Klotz replied by thanking Wallich for the post.
“I was telling my wife last night how much of a mentor you were to me back in ’07,” Klotz said. “Beyond excited to continue building upon the great tradition of Damascus Football that you and the great coaches before you established.”
Under Klotz, Richard Montgomery finished the 2019 regular season with a 7-2 record and reached the regional second round in the state playoffs. Damascus players will be able to meet and greet their new head coach in a meeting planned for Feb. 24, according to Elgin.
Klotz will look to replicate Wallich’s success with the program, which includes finishing the 2019 season on a 12-game winning streak a 3A state championship after defeating Linganore on Dec. 5. The Hornets won four state championships under Wallich and claimed the record for the longest winning streak in state history with 53-straight wins from 2014 to 2018.
Wallich resigned on Jan. 17, stating that he needed to make “a change” for himself and his family. His resignation came after five junior varsity football players were accused of committing sexual assault to three younger teammates in the locker room in October 2018.
Four players were charged as adults before their case moved to juvenile court. According to a Washington Post report, the suspects pleaded to be involved in the attack five months ago, but their charges are not clear because they are juveniles.
Several members of the school administration and the whole junior varsity coaching staff were either removed or fired in the months following the allegations. Recently, two lawsuits filed on behalf of several of the teenage players assaulted claims former school officials “put a winning football culture” ahead of student safety.
The defendants named in the lawsuits include the Montgomery County Board of Education, former Damascus Principal Casey Crouse, former junior varsity coach Vincent Colbert, former Damascus Athletic Director Joe Doody and Wallich. In a separate letter to students and parents on Feb. 6, Yates said the school is prepared for additional media attention.
“Please know that the DHS staff is here to support our students, and we will enforce our standard safety and privacy protocols that keep media off (school) property when students are on campus for the instructional day,” Yates said. “Additionally, our counselors and psychologists are aware and prepared to support students as needed. We remain committed to the safety of our students.”
East vs. West Game to Move to Memorial Day weekend
By Big 33 Staff
HARRISBURG, Pa. (February 12, 2020) – High school all-stars from Pennsylvania and Maryland will compete at the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association (PSFCA) Big 33 Football Classic’s 63rd game on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25 at Central Dauphin School District’s Landis Field in Lower Paxton Township. Today, Pennsylvania’s 38-member Big 33 team was announced along with cheerleaders for Pennsylvania and Maryland. Go to www.Big33.org for PA’s Big 33 Team, and next week to www.PSFCA.net for the East/West rosters.
“It’s rewarding to see generations of fans energized by one of our country’s favorite sports and traditions. We are extremely proud to showcase this premier high school football game featuring gifted student athletes and leaders, in partnership with the Dauphin County Commissioners,” said Garry Cathell, executive director of PSFCA. “Part of this special Big 33 experience involves teaming our players and cheerleaders with their special needs buddies, as well as giving back additionally through community visits like the Lebanon VA Medical Center and through meeting Gold Star families, new this year.”
“Today is an exciting day as we announce our extremely talented roster of PA all stars who will hit the field for one of the greatest high school football games in the country. As coaches and fans, we always look forward to an exciting match up that boasts so many football greats since 1957,” added PSFCA President Coach Mike Whitehead. “We are extremely grateful to the Commissioners, our honorary chair Coy Wire, our host families, players, sponsors, buddies, cheerleaders, fans and volunteers for supporting the success of one of the country’s top high school competitions as we celebrate Memorial Day weekend and our military.”
DAUPHIN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS’ SUPPORT:
Since the PSFCA took over the Big 33 Football Classic in early 2017, the commissioners have provided vital support annually in tourism grant funding, which is generated by hotel room taxes, to ensure the game would continue in Dauphin County.
“Dauphin County is proud to host the annual Big 33 Football Classic and support its mission to showcase top young talent from Pennsylvania,” said Dauphin County Board Chairman Jeff Haste. “It’s our equivalent to the Super Bowl in many ways, bringing hundreds of players and their families, cheerleaders, coaches and buddies to the region and generating more than $2.7 million in economic impact every year.”
“We’re thrilled to support the Big 33 and want to thank the PSFCA and Central Dauphin School District for taking the ball and running with it the past several years, keeping this proud tradition going,” said Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries. “It gives young people the opportunity of a lifetime – to play or cheer in the biggest football game of their young career.”
“We’ve worked hard over the years to make it much more than a game, including a free first-down clinic for kids, the Buddy program, and the partnership with The Peyton Walker Foundation to encourage athletes to get heart screenings,” said Dauphin County Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III. “Having the Big 33 back in the Harrisburg area every year is a huge win, bringing honor, recognition and an infusion of activity into the local economy.”
BUDDY PROGRAM & THE PEYTON WALKER FOUNDATION:
The game and other events surrounding Big 33 support the Buddy Program, which connects kids with special needs with all-star athletes in football, cheerleading and beyond.
Again this year, Big 33 will partner with Julie Walker and The Peyton Walker Foundation, who applauded the Big 33 for their leadership in making players’ heart safety a priority. Walker said, “We are grateful to partner with PSFCA, Big 33, Mid Penn Bank and UPMC Pinnacle Sports Cardiology to provide heart screenings for all Pennsylvania players this year. UPMC Pinnacle Sports Cardiology is pleased to be the medical partner for the Team Heart Screenings and provide an Electrocardiogram, a murmur check and an Echocardiogram.”
Walker is a nationally recognized heart hero, working to prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest in students, and pointed out that conditions that can cause SCA are often detectable and treatable. Yet, SCA is the number-one killer of student athletes in the country. The Foundation provides free routine heart screenings that help to identify potential heart issues that can lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Mid Penn Bank is sponsoring the Big 33 screenings. Walker added, “Thank you for being Heart Heroes. Saving other families from losing a child to SCA is our end goal.”
CNN ANCHOR COY WIRE, 2020 HONORARY CHAIR:
2020 Honorary Chair Coy Wire joined via video. Wire is a former professional football player who joined CNN Sports in 2015 as an anchor and correspondent. He anchors daily Bleacher Report segments, covers events and serves as an expert contributor across all platforms. He appears regularly on CNN programs Early Start, New Day and CNN Newsroom, in addition to HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade and Weekend Express with Lynn Smith and contributes to many other CNN programs such as covering Super Bowls, Olympics, FIFA Women’s World Cup and beyond. A Stanford University star, Wire was the first player in modern school history to lead the team in rushing one year and tackles in another. He was drafted into the NFL by the Buffalo Bills in 2002. He was named team captain for both the Bills and the Atlanta Falcons during his career which spanned nine years. He also received the Ed Block Courage Award, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and Special Teams Player of the year. Coy, who grew up near Harrisburg, attending Cedar Cliff High School, and is a proud Big 33 alum, wrote an inspirational book, “Change Your Mind.”
Wire noted, “I, too, was fortunate enough to play in the Big 33. I represented Team Pennsylvania. It is an experience I will never forget and you, too, will soon see why. Who knows? Maybe someday you will be playing in a Super Bowl. Looking forward to seeing all of you soon.”
Sponsors and host families are still welcome by calling Big 33 at 717-200-3378. To date, this year’s major sponsors include: Dauphin County, The U.S. Marine Corps, Walmart, Adidas, Capital Blue Cross, UPMC Pinnacle, The Peyton Walker Foundation, PA Dairymen’s Association Choose PA Dairy Program, Under Armour, The Funding Zone, Mid Penn Bank, Drayer Physical Therapy, USA Football, Webster Fitness, Rising Stars Football Academy, 1847 Financial, KSA Events, and more.
Big 33 organizers were joined today by Pennsylvania Big 33 Team Coach Jack Young of Athens School District and some of this year’s Big 33 football players, the program’s buddies and cheerleaders. Some well-known alumni and NFL greats include: Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Ricky Waters, Ben Roethlisberger, Kyle Brady and Jordan Hill.
For tickets and more information about the game, which will kick off at 2 p.m. on Monday, Memorial Day, May 25, at Central Dauphin School District’s Landis Field and include a pre-game fan experience and community festival, go to www.big33.org. Big 33 partners said Memorial Day is expected to be extra special offering a Pre-Game Fan Experience, including a free USA Football Youth Clinic, a cross-fitness military competition called “Murph,” named after decorated military hero and Navy Seal Michael Murphy, and capped off by the Big 33 Football Classic. Tickets for the football game are expected to go on sale April 1. For updates, follow Big 33 on Facebook @Big33FootballClassic, Instagram @PSFCABig33Football Classic or on Twitter @PSFCABig33.