Shane Collier plays football with downhill decisiveness.
A star linebacker for Archbishop Wood High School, Collier moves with little hesitation, closing on the action with speed and force. He was a hero of the Vikings’ run to the PIAA Class 5A state title last season, recovering two fumbles in a semifinal win over Western Pennsylvania power Gateway and recording a team-high seven tackles in the dramatic, championship-game victory over local rival Cheltenham.
But on the brink of his senior season, Collier has been stopped in his tracks. He has lost momentum. He has been stymied in a way that rarely has seemed possible for blockers from opposing teams.
Like many other athletes in the Philadelphia Catholic League, as well as the Philadelphia Public League, Inter-Ac League, and other leagues in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Collier is looking at a fall season without his favorite sport, an empty autumn. And that’s created disappointment, frustration and, in his case, a brief period of indecision.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Collier said. “It was so frustrating. But now I know I want to stay with my teammates and my coaches.”
Collier made waves on local television on Monday night when he told Fox29 that he was planning to leave Archbishop Wood and transfer to nearby William Tennent High School to play his senior season. Tennent, like most other schools in the Surburban One League, plans to stage football and other traditional fall sports.
“It’s the hardest decision I ever had to make in my life,” Collier said in the television interview during a rally outside of Archbishop Wood in Warminster, Bucks County. “I’ve been playing football for 15 years. I don’t want it to end like this.”
Later that night, Collier changed his mind. After talking with family, he decided to remain at Archbishop Wood, holding out hope the Vikings will take the field for an abbreviated football season after the new year.
“When the PCL canceled and I saw that the SOL was going to play, it really messed with me,” Collier said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Thousands of area athletes find themselves in the same position, and the frustration is particularly acute for seniors planning to use their 12th-grade season to attract interest from college recruiters.
West Chester East senior quarterback Ryan Duell, whose school is a member of the shut-down Ches-Mont League, has a scholarship offer from Long Island University. But he was hoping to use the fall season to raise his profile and earn additional interest.
“So many coaches told me they wanted to see me throw in person,” Duell said.
Area coaches say there are countless seniors in the same situation -- athletes who have gained muscle weight and added physical strength and emotional maturity since last season and could earn scholarship money from lower-level NCAA Division I programs or Division II programs such as those in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
“There are so many kids that need senior film,” said Malvern Prep coach Dave Gueriera, whose program is a member of the Inter-Ac League, which postponed fall sports.
Gueriera toyed with the idea of creating a club football team -- similar to an AAU basketball program -- so that college coaches could observe local athletes before deciding the plan wasn’t workable.
“These opportunities, they can be life-changing for these kids,” Gueriera said.
The first national signing period for football is in December and the second is in February, both of which would be before athletes who play for programs that have postponed fall sports would take the field for spring football.
“A lot of these kids need to be seen as seniors to get those opportunities,” said Neumann Goretti coach Albie Crosby, whose team is a member of the Philadelphia Catholic League. “Now those scholarships might be going to kids elsewhere in the state or in New Jersey who are getting the chance to play.”
Cheltenham coach Ryan Nase said some of his seniors have wrestled with the idea of transferring to other schools. Cheltenham, which battled Archbishop Wood to the bitter end in a last-second, 19-15 loss in last season’s state final, currently is the only school in the SOL that has voted not to play fall sports.
“It’s just really tough to see that other teams are playing and knowing we can’t,” Cheltenham senior linebacker Zach Gaffin said.
Gaffin on Thursday said that he had decided to transfer to William Tennent.
Nase said Cheltenham seniors such as wide receiver Amani Ezell and lineman Nate Felix are top students and promising players who were overshadowed by last season’s 12th graders. This fall was going to be their time to shine and impress college recruiters.
“There’s so many kids who take that next step as seniors,” Nase said. “They’re losing that chance.”
Collier made 75 tackles last season as Wood won its sixth state title since 2011. He was credited with 17 tackles for loss and seven sacks, two forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries.
“He’s an old-school linebacker, downhill, tough, just a football player,” Wood coach Matt Walp said. “Watch him running down the field on kickoffs. He looks like his hair is on fire.”
Collier has visited Bloomsburg, a Division II program in the PSAC. He has drawn interest from Division I programs such as Lafayette and Holy Cross, but he doesn’t have any offers.
That’s largely why he considered transferring to William Tennent and taking the field for a different team. But he said that staying at Wood “has lifted the weight off my shoulders.”