By this time next week, the first night of high school football games for all of Progressland schools in District 6 and 9 will be in the books after a two-week delay following a lengthy back-and-forth battle between Gov. Tom Wolf and the PIAA about whether sports should happen at all because of COVID-19.
For other schools, they will still be waiting to hit the gridiron after the Intermediate Unit 9, which serves the school districts in the northern part of D-9, made the decision to create its own “bubble” for its teams to compete in against each other for all sports.
The creation of that IU9 bubble means District 9 schools St. Marys, Elk County Catholic and Ridgway won’t kick off their football seasons until Sept. 18. All other sports in that bubble can begin Monday, Sept. 14.
It also means schedules in all sports had to be quickly redone to allow for play in the IU9 bubble and southern part of D-9.
In the southern part of District 9 and District 6, golf and tennis have already started play, with all other sports — including football — permitted to start Friday (Sept. 11).
The Progressland football slate will consist of six games — Clearfield at Penns Valley, Curwensville at Redbank Valley, Glendale at Everett, Claysburg-Kimmel at Moshannon Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola at Huntingdon and West Branch at Juniata Valley.
The high school football season will certainly have a different look on the field with new schedules and COVID-19 guidelines that may or may not allow fans — depending on what decisions each individual school district makes in regards to fans now being permitted to attend games as part of the 250 outdoor limit.
By this time next week, readers will also notice a different look to our high school football coverage — and that’s after any restrictions media may face covering games because of COVID-19.
We here in the sports department are set to face a new venture when it comes to high school football coverage — and really any live sporting events on Friday — because of company changes in regards to our weekend paper.
And, I wanted to give readers a small heads up on what they can expect to see moving forward in regards to weekend sports coverage here at The Progress and with our sister papers — the Courier-Express and their Tri-County Weekend edition.
While the papers look the same outside, the switch brought big changes behind the scenes on our end. The Tri-County Weekend (formerly the Tri-County Sunday) now comes out on Saturdays instead of Sundays, with the Tri-County Weekend now being delivered to subscribers via same day mail instead of individual newspaper carries.
We at The Progress have been working with a shorter deadline the last few years on Friday nights to get our editions in the mail on time for Saturday delivery. Now the TCW will be doing the same.
To ensure mail delivery, our Friday night deadlines — for both us and the Tri-County Weekend — is 11:30 p.m.
That means a quick turnaround after games end Friday night — something we have been able to get done with a 12:30 a.m. deadline the last few seasons. It’s one of the reasons I have been in the office on Friday nights instead of out covering a game.
Losing that extra hour so both papers can now get in the mail, we have put a plan in motion to provide the best game stories and photos possible to The Progress’ Saturday edition each week.
However, with some changes made internally to ensure that, some things will look a bit different — at least for the first couple weeks. And, I wanted to let you the readers know some of those ahead of time.
We don’t plan to run full box scores with the game stories in the paper on Saturdays. With most writers having to work remotely after games to meet the new deadline, we felt holding those will save time.
Box scores will be added to stories once they go up on our website and on social media late Friday nights or early Saturday mornings. We do plan to run all box scores in Monday’s edition as part of a new football package that will recap the local action and feature some type of stat leaders and more game photos.
Some game stories also may not make it into print for Saturday’s edition for various reasons. Those could be a triple-overtime game that pushes things past deadline, a writer having issues getting internet access in some of the remote places in the district or possibly us getting a story from another source who is unable to meet our deadline.
Those game stories/photos will be put online Friday night/Saturday morning as we get them and will also run in print in Monday’s Progress as well — along with any other sporting events that happen on Saturdays.
We also have the opportunity to share some game stories with our sister paper the Tri-County Weekend to give readers a look at some other schools just outside our regular coverage area and vice versa.
All of our full-time reporters have worked on deadlines before, but doing so while trying to cover our six area football teams every Friday night will present some challenges — both in coverage and layout of the paper — in the beginning.
We ask you bear with us the first couple weeks as we work through this new challenge, especially covering games that could feature some unseen changes themselves because of COVID-19 guidelines.
We are as committed as ever to provide the best coverage we can for our area athletes, and perhaps after a couple weeks, we find things running smoothly and box scores can be added back into the coverage for the Saturday paper.
As with everything these days, we plan to take it one week at a time in regards to football coverage and hope there isn’t much of a difference in what you pick up to read from week to week.
Jaclyn Yingling is the Sports Editor of The Progress. She can be reached at email@example.com