There may be Philadelphia Catholic League sports after all this fall.
On Friday, the Office of Catholic Education and Faith in the Future Foundation announced that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s 17 high schools “may resume interscholastic athletic competition while continuing to strictly follow health and safety guidelines.”
“We’re back in business," said Neumann Goretti High School football coach Albie Crosby. "It’s a great day. I haven’t talked to all my kids. But the ones I’ve talked to are overly excited.”
Like many sports organizations across the country, the archdiocese canceled the fall high school sports season on Aug. 24 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the archdiocese said, school administrators and senior leadership have "studied pandemic metrics, guidelines, and school COVID profiles as part of our continuous assessment process.
"After carefully reviewing all possible factors, including the successful opening of our schools, we believe the environment has changed for the better over the past month,” Sister Maureen L. McDermott, superintendent of secondary schools, said in a statement.
A schedule for the resumption of sports was not announced. However, football teams are likely to start playing games the weekends of Oct 16 or 23. The schedule likely will be released next week.
Football teams could be given an option of playing strictly a league schedule and then entering a league playoff, or opting to play two or three games and then entering the district playoffs.
Archbishop Wood is the defending PIAA Class 5A state football champion. But the Vikings have been moved to Class 6A this school year. Neumann Goretti is regarded as a team that would be a strong contender for a Class 3A title.
Due to the shutdown in August, La Salle High and St. Joseph’s Prep were the only two Catholic League schools from District 12 with plans to play football. They are in the Catholic League but not under the auspices of the archdiocese.
La Salle opened its season last Friday with a victory over Manheim Township.
Several football teams in District 1, such as those in the Suburban One League and the Pioneer Athletic Conference, have plans to open the season in early October, with schools from the Ches-Mont and Central Leagues looking at playing games by the middle of the month.
In acknowledgment of those late starts, the PIAA on Wednesday approved a one-year proposal from District 1 chairman Michael Barber that district committees be allowed to grant entry to the postseason playoffs to teams that don’t meet games-played requirements.
Under current PIAA rules, teams must have scheduled at least 50 percent of the maximum number of games and have played at least 33 percent to qualify for the postseason.
On Wednesday, the PIAA approved plans for postseason championships in fall sports, with state finals in football set for Nov. 27-28 at HersheyPark Stadium. That’s two weeks earlier than originally scheduled as the organization that oversees high school sports in the state has shortened the seasons for all fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PIAA announced that boys' and girls' soccer state championships would be held Nov. 20-21; girls' volleyball and field hockey Nov. 21; boys' and girls' cross-country Nov. 6-7; tennis team finals Oct. 31 and individual and doubles finals on Nov. 7.
“We understand and value the importance of athletics as part of the program of formation within our high schools,” McDermott said in her statement about the Catholic League. “We express our gratitude to our school communities for their trust and support while we appropriately deliberated how to bring back athletic programs with a commitment to safety in these unprecedented times.”
Many high schools in the rest of Pennsylvania have begun to play fall sports, without any reports of infection spikes. New Jersey plans to start games in fall sports in early October, and the Delaware Board of Education voted this week to reverse course and allow high schools in that state to play after making a decision in August to delay competition until after the new year.