The Central League on Friday became the latest high school league in the Philadelphia area to shut down fall sports because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Central League made the announcement on its Twitter feed, noting the organization was “taking its direction from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Chester and Montgomery County Health Departments and the Governor’s Office by postponing the start of athletic competitions.”

The news came just hours after the Suburban One League voted overwhelmingly to proceed with fall sports.

The Central League includes Lower Merion, Harriton, Conestoga, Garnet Valley, Haverford, Marple Newtown, Penncrest, Radnor, Ridley, Strath Haven, Upper Darby and Springfield (Delco) high schools.

“It’s certainly disappointing for all of us,” Haverford football coach Joe Gallagher said. “But it’s like I tell the kids, ’A good attitude is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.’

“This is what has happened to us. We have to try to react in a positive way and make the best of it.”

The announcement noted that the Central League with work with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association in an effort to to arrange for “alternative solutions,” such as staging football and other traditional fall sports after the new year.

“The Central League will stay in constant contact with the PIAA to work collaboratively and advocate on creating alternative solutions for our student athletes in order for them to participate in interscholastic competitions,” the league said. “It is our hope that PIAA will provide the Central League with alternative solutions, which we will communicate to our communities in the near future as more guidance is brought forth from the PIAA and the Health Departments.

“These solutions could include shortened, competitive schedules for each athletic season beginning in January.”

Garnet Valley football coach Mike Ricci on the postponement of fall sports by the Central League: "We're going to be sad but it doesn't do any good to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to approach this with positivity."
Garnet Valley football coach Mike Ricci on the postponement of fall sports by the Central League: "We're going to be sad but it doesn't do any good to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to approach this with positivity."

Garnet Valley football coach Mike Ricci said his players were disappointed but determined to use the fall to prepare for what they hope will be a season in the spring.

“They are upset and justifiably,” Ricci said. “But once we work through that, we have the opportunity to respond in whatever way we want to respond. We need to choose to be positive. We need to use this time to continue to train, to get better so when the spring comes we’ll be prepared to be successful.”

The Central League’s announcement encouraged school districts to continue with “voluntary off-season workouts in accordance with their school board-approved health and safety plans.”

Gallagher said the go-ahead to continue workouts was a positive that would help keep student-athletes engaged and motivated by the potential opportunity to take the field in uniform in the spring.

“That’s the thing that’s encouraging, that we can continue to work out and stay together and positive and hopefully there will be an alternate plan for us in the spring,” Gallagher said.

The decision moves the Central League schools into the same camp with most of the Philadelphia Catholic League as well as schools in the Philadelphia Public League, Inter-Ac League, Del Val League and Friends Schools League, all of which has postponed fall sports out of COVID-19 concerns.

Sean Reynolds (No. 11) and Justin Burgess (No. 5) of Haverford chase Downingtown West's Tyriq Lewis during last season's District 1, Class 6A semifinals.
Bob Williams For The inquirer
Sean Reynolds (No. 11) and Justin Burgess (No. 5) of Haverford chase Downingtown West's Tyriq Lewis during last season's District 1, Class 6A semifinals.