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BG getting forfeit win over McCort

Justin Wheeler

A whirlwind two weeks following a positive COVID-19 test from someone on the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic sideline during the Marauders’ win over Chestnut Ridge on Oct. 10 has ended with BG receiving a forfeit win in the first round of the District 6 Class 1A playoffs.

District 6 football chairman Ralph Cecere sent out a statement just before 7 p.m. Thursday that Bishop McCort made the decision to forfeit Saturday’s first-round game against Bishop Guilfoyle “in the best interest of their student athletes.”

The fifth-seeded Marauders were awarded a 1-0 victory and advance to play at fourth-seeded Conemaugh Valley on Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. Cambria Heights also received a forfeit victory over Southern Huntingdon in the District 6 Class 2A quarterfinals earlier Thursday.

“You always would rather play a game, but I’m excited that we’re moving on,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler said. “We’re going to just look forward to playing Conemaugh Valley next Saturday.”

Earlier Thursday, Bishop Guilfoyle athletic director Joe Landolfi announced that Wheeler would not have been able to coach in Saturday’s game against McCort following a week the Marauders were idle after canceling a game against Central Cambria after the potential exposure to the COVID-positive individual on the sideline Oct. 10.

Cleared members of the team and coaching staff returned to practice and school on Monday, but Wheeler was not among those coaches.

“We did have one additional positive COVID case, and Coach Wheeler was exposed to that individual so he can’t be on the sideline Saturday,” said Landolfi Thursday morning before the announcement of the forfeit. “He was exposed on our sideline and was asked to quarantine 14 days by Penn Cambria (where Wheeler is employed).”

Joe Thomas was expected to be the Marauders’ acting head coach Saturday night.

“It’s been very stressful, but a lot of people are dealing with this across the country and the area,” Wheeler said. “It’s definitely stressful, but I have been so happy with the way Bishop Guilfoyle has handled this in regard to safety and protocol and really doing the right thing. It has been stressful, but I have had great confidence in what they have done to keep our players and coaches safe.”

Landolfi said the situation at Bishop Guilfoyle had been changing by the hour, not the day.

“It’s actually an hourly thing,” Landolfi said. “We’re really going above and beyond here trying to keep everybody safe, keep the kids in school and follow safety protocols from the Department of Health and the CDC. Our administration has gone above and beyond. It’s really just an hourly thing. They are doing contact tracing, analyzing data sets and really want to make absolutely sure that everyone is safe and that anyone with any COVID concerns will not be on the field.”

The forfeit from McCort will allow the Marauders to have a full three weeks in between games.

“It’s exactly what we needed just to make sure that we’re 100 percent both coaches and team,” Wheeler said. “I think it will help getting those extra days since it’s been awhile since we have all been together. Every day we get will be used.”

Bishop Guilfoyle reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Health about the situation earlier this month and received positive feedback.

“The Department of Health commended our administration for the things they have done prior to contacting the Department of Health and told them there was nothing else we could tell you to do that you haven’t already done,” Landolfi said.

The Marauder athletic director said the school is putting safety and education ahead of sports.

“All the local school are dealing with COVID situations,” Landolfi said. “Everybody is doing a really good job keeping the kids in the classroom and keeping the kids safe and educated. Something that gets lost, because people want to throw shade on Bishop Guilfoyle, is there are five words in front of Marauder football. That’s Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School. Without those five words, there is no Marauder football. We’re trying to keep the kids safe in the school, and the administration is doing a tremendous job with that.”

The Marauders’ scheduled opponent, Bishop McCort, was only in the playoff field due to Glendale opting out of the No. 12 seed due to what Vikings coach Dave “Spank” Trexler referred to as “potential COVID-related concerns” on Sunday.

McCort athletic director Ralph DeMarco said he did not wish to have any comment appear in the newspaper and referred the Mirror to school principal and head football coach Tom Smith, who did not return a message asking if McCort had any issues with playing Saturday’s game on Thursday afternoon prior to the announcement of the forfeit.

SUBHED: Heights advances

Bishop Guilfoyle was not the first District 6 playoff team to advance due to a forfeit.

Southern Huntingdon, which has played just four games due to the virus, forfeited its District 6 Class 2A quarterfinal game to Cambria Heights just after 11 a.m. on Thursday.

The Rockets were the No. 2 seed and entered the playoffs 4-0. The Highlanders were the No. 7 seed at 3-3.

“We just heard an hour ago that they weren’t going to play,” Cambria Heights coach Jarrod Lewis said when contacted around noon. “We wanted to play Southern Huntington. We felt that they were a good football team, but we felt like we are too. We were looking forward to playing them. My heart goes out to them. I feel bad for them not being able to compete. Obviously, we’re in crazy times. We’re happy to move on, but we wanted to do it on the field.”

District 6 also announced the Southern Huntingdon forfeit via an email with a statement from the Rockets.

“The Class 2A game between Cambria Heights and Southern Huntingdon scheduled for Friday has been cancelled,” Cecere said in an email. “Southern Huntingdon is dealing with the COVID virus and has shut down extracurriculars until further notice. Cambria Heights will move to the next round.”

Cecere confirmed that the game would go down as a 1-0 victory for Heights, which will play the winner of third-seeded Marion Center and sixth-seeded Northern Cambria next week in the semifinals.

“To get to the playoffs is something you work hard for, and you never take it for granted,” Lewis said. “To move on to the second round is something that has only been done twice in Cambria Heights’ history, so we’re looking forward to playing in the next round.”

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