FROM THE PRESS BOX: LIKE 2020, NTL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE IS UNIQUE
2020 has been the most unique year ever, so it only stands to reason the 2020 NTL football schedule would look much different than any other we’ve ever seen.
One of the positive aspects of the schedule is moving the rivalry games to Week 1.
The obvious reason for the shift from season finale to season opener is to assure the rivalry games will be played with the Covid-19 situation still hanging over us like a dark cloud.
Whether it was done of purpose or not, the league’s athletic directors have ignited a firestorm of interest for the start of the season. What better way to create excitement than to have Wyalusing and Towanda, Canton and Troy, and Sayre and Athens square off in Week 1?
The schedule as a whole, however, is odd to say the least.
For example, the schedule has Athens not playing against traditional Large School rivals Wellsboro, Troy, and North Penn-Mansfield, but facing Montgomery and South Williamsport, while Sayre — the defending Small School champ — plays five Large School opponents.
The Athens schedule alone left me scratching my head.
However, after discussions with a couple of ADs, their hands were tied to an extent by the fact that several school districts in the NTL placed restrictions on where their teams could play. For example, at least two school districts from the North refused to play games outside of Bradford or Tioga counties.
One thing Saturday’s scrimmages brought to light was the handling of the 250 maximum attendance stipulation placed on outdoor sporting events by the Wolfe administration.
Wellsboro and Canton both restricted the visiting teams from having fans in attendance for their scrimmages, so it’s likely most school districts will have the same philosophy during the regular season.
Hopefully, the situation will be remedied by Friday as there’s a bill in the state Senate (already passed the House) that would allow school districts to determine their own attendance numbers, based on the size of their facilities and the ability to follow proper protocols.
If not, there will be some angry parents / fans when they’re turned away from these rivalry games.
Regardless of the schedule or the crowd sizes, I’m looking forward to Friday and the season.
The Canton-Troy “Old Shoe” game should be the marquee match-up of Week 1. Heading into Saturday, the Warriors were the clear-cut favorite to be the best team in the NTL, but Timmy Ward’s injury probably brings them back to the pack, of which Troy is likely the best team.
The Wyalusing-Towanda “Bronze Helmet” game give a pair of programs a chance to get off to a good start after tough years.
The Black Knights won three of their final four regular-season games, but finished at 3-8, while the Rams lost their final six games in 2019 to finish to 2-8.
In the Valley, the Sayre-Athens “Rusty Rail” game pits a Wildcat program trying to bounce back from one of its worst seasons ever against a Redskins team looking for its third straight winning season.
I expect three competitive games. I’ll make my picks Friday morning.
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