Moshannon Valley School District officials are hoping something beautiful can grow out of an ugly situation at the conclusion of its football season.
The school has until Feb. 1 to present a sportsmanship program and have it approved by the District 6 committee. That comes in the wake of a penalty- and ejection-filled Class A semifinal district playoff game that landed Mo Valley on probation in December.
"We're seeing it as an opportunity to enlighten people,'' Mo Valley principal John Dibert said. "It's a chance for us to set the bar high and teach the kids sportsmanship.''
Four Black Knights were ejected along with two Penns Manor players from a game in Clymer that was marred by 32 total penalties - many for dead-ball unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls - for a combined 319 yards. All four of the Mo Valley players thrown out were seniors.
Penns Manor pulled away in the fourth quarter to win the game, 26-6, on Nov. 19.
"We had to make sure that was dealt with immediately,'' District 6 chairman Ray Wotkowski said.
Wotkowski said the district committee's concern resided in the areas of profanity and unsportsmanlike conduct, control of the program by the school and control of the players by the coaches.
According to the minutes from District 6's December meeting, two of the Mo Valley players were ejected by the Blair County-based officiating crew for fighting, another drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the fourth made intentional contact with one of the officials.
Wotkowski said an incident in the pressbox two weeks earlier when the Knights hosted Claysburg-Kimmel in a first-round playoff game also factored into the penalties the district handed down. There, comments that were considered inappopriate were made to the officials evaluator.
Penns Manor also was reprimanded for security concerns. That school reported back to the district committee earlier this week, and its plan was approved.
Regardless of whether Mo Valley's response is approved or not, the school, which is holding a meeting today about its plan, will be on probation through the fall of 2012 sports season. If the plan isn't approved or if there is another incident, Mo Valley's teams will be ineligible to compete in district playoffs in any sport.
"Everybody in the district has to understand if we make one more mistake, we could cost our softball or girls soccer teams a trip to the playoffs,'' Dibert said.
A committee was organized to formulate the program for players, coaches, teachers, parents and fans, Dibert said. Wotkowski and Dibert said Mo Valley was basing its program on one set up by Westmont Hilltop, which found itself in a similar situation to the southeastern Clearfield County school.
"They are taking this very seriously,'' Wotkowski said.
Meetings with players and booster clubs were planned to discuss sportsmanship and proper conduct, Dibert said. The players ejected were suspended from athletic contests, as per PIAA rules, and were also subject to in-school santions.
Bill Wolf's crew of Sean Albright, Brad Bert, Brian Bert, Tim Hite, Bud Ratchford and Todd Parker officiated the Mo Valley/Penns Manor game. They were interviewed by the district along with on-site evaluator Rick Martin.
Wotkowski said no action was taken against them by the district.
"Neither Moshannon Valley nor Penns Manor complained about the officials losing control of the game,'' Wotkowski said.
According to Wotkowski, officials constantly are being evaluated and that anyone finding fault with the work of the crew had avenues to voice their concerns by reporting to the district through official representatives. Wotkowski noted the district "took strong steps'' in reprimanding the crew that worked the 2010 Bishop McCort at Bellwood-Antis football playoff game in which Bellwood incorrectly lost a down as it was driving for the potential go-ahead score late in the contest.
For Mo Valley, though, the focus has been turned inward.
"We're seeing this as an opportunity to teach appropriate behavior. We have to set an example,'' Dibert said.