Malvern Prep football coach Dave Gueriera had one message for his athletes as summer turned to fall, and the chances of playing this season seemed increasingly remote.
“I would tell them, ‘Keep chopping. Keep chopping. Good things are going to happen,’” Gueriera said.
On Friday, the Friars got the good news: They will take the field this fall despite the decision by the rest of the Inter-Academic League to stay on the sideline.
“We’re just thrilled that our athletes will be resuming competition,” Malvern Prep athletic director Jim Stewart said of the school’s plan to stage interscholastic competition in sports such as football, soccer, cross-country, golf, and water polo.
Stewart said Malvern Prep athletes also will be competing in rugby, rowing, and sailing, which are not Inter-Ac league sports.
The Malvern Prep news came as the Inter-Ac League, which had announced a suspension of fall sports on Aug. 26 because of the coronavirus outbreak, shot down rumors of a possible reversal of course with a short statement of its intention to continue to postpone competition.
“After considering a number of factors related to the possibility of executing an interscholastic fall athletic season, the Inter-Ac is not ready to pursue such an endeavor at this time,” the league statement read. “The Inter-Ac will continue to analyze regional COVID-19 data and to assess future possibilities this fall in consultation with medical and community leaders.”
The Inter-Ac statement also reiterated its plan to pursue the possibility of staging all three sports seasons in condensed form after the New Year.
In a statement, Stewart referenced the Inter-Ac League’s decision and said, “However, after careful consideration, Malvern’s administration has approved a plan to resume Upper School fall sports for varsity teams, effective immediately.”
Stewart said the Friars' teams will continue to adhere to “top-level safety protocols” that have been in place since the beginning of informal workouts in the summer.
Gueriera said he hopes his team will be able to play its first game Oct. 17. The coach said he has been in contact with a number of schools but declined to identify possible opponents for the Friars.
Gueriera said Malvern Prep hopes to be able to play football games through Thanksgiving. Many other programs could be looking for games in November, since the PIAA has announced that teams can continue to play through Thanksgiving, even if they are eliminated from the district or state tournament.
Gueriera said the team has been practicing four days a week for the last three weeks, including some workouts with limited contact.
Malvern Prep was projected before this season to be one of the top teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Friars feature all-purpose senior standout Lonnie White Jr., a Penn State recruit, as well as senior safety/running back Steven Rose Jr., a Delaware recruit, and senior two-way lineman Christian Curatolo, a Lehigh recruit.
Other top players for Malvern Prep include all-purpose senior Kellen Mathias, senior tight end/linebacker Jake Brownley, and junior lineman Coltin Deery, who has around 30 scholarship offers.
“These kids have worked so hard,” Gueriera said. “We’ve just tried to stay positive, tried to stay productive. I’m just so happy they are going to get the chance to get out on the field.”