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Marauders ride roller-coaster season to title

Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic doesn’t get a lot of sympathy from outside its school walls, but the Marauder football team has been through a lot the last calendar year.

BG lost last year’s PIAA Class 1A title game to Farrell in overtime in large part due to extremely windy conditions. As the Marauders prepared to try and get back to that point this year, they had to deal with the possibility the entire season could be wiped out due to the coronavirus.

When Bishop Guilfoyle finally got back on the field, it couldn’t hold a 10-0 halftime lead in its opener against District 6 Class 2A champion Richland and then was forced to forfeit its second game in which it won 48-0 on the field against Forest Hills due to a self-reported violation.

Standing at 0-2, the Marauders faced a very real possibility of missing out on the District 6 Class 1A playoffs if the playoff bracket was condensed and the season shortened. The season was dropped to six regular-season weeks, but the playoffs remained a 12-team field in 1A.

Still, the Marauders were dealing with a COVID-19 situation following a victory over District 5 Class 2A champion Chestnut Ridge on Oct. 10. It was unclear whether or not Bishop Guilfoyle would even be allowed to participate in the District 6 playoffs following the cancellation of its game against Central Cambria the next week. Things worked out for the Marauders in the end as 12th-seeded Bishop McCort forfeited its first-round game and BG dominated Conemaugh Valley and Purchase Line on its way to Friday’s district title game, which it won 48-13 over Homer-Center.

“For the mental health of the kids, just getting to play was huge,” Bishop Guilfoyle coach Justin Wheeler said. “When you play and get a chance to win, that’s just the icing on the cake, and these kids need something good. Winning this is so emotional for us tonight, because of everything these guys have been through the last eight or nine months.”

Friday’s celebration was not as wild as some may expect, however. The Marauders took notice of several state playoff forfeits across the state, including 6A power Pittsburgh Central Catholic not playing McDowell in Friday’s quarterfinal round.

“We played an amazing game,” Bishop Guilfoyle senior fullback and linebacker Zach McCloskey said. “But with the situation the way it is, we know it always could be our last game. At least we can be happy with how we played.”

Bishop Guilfoyle is scheduled to play District 3 champion Steelton-Highspire next weekend in the PIAA semifinals, but with the PIAA meeting on Wednesday to discuss a recent state-wide spike in coronavirus cases and school closings, the team knows that game isn’t guaranteed.

“I think everyone across the state is crossing their fingers,” Wheeler said. “I’m glad the PIAA is allowing us to continue. In the single-A playoffs, the top teams are still in, so I hope we get a chance to continue. Steel High won tonight, and we’ve faced them before, but just getting a chance to play them would be the icing on the cake. We’ll keep our fingers crossed, because you just don’t know until the last minute, but we’ll hope for good things and rely on the school to keep doing what they are doing and that’s keeping the kids safe.”

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