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THE FINAL WORD: PUTTING A BOW ON THE 2020-21 FALL SEASONS (2021-07-29)

What should have been the 2020 fall season was just that in Pa., but thanks to an over-reaction in New York State all sports was canceled until Jan. 4, 2021, and the “fall” season was not contested until March and April.

Despite playing in the fall, Athens and Sayre teams saw their schedule changing on a near daily basis thanks to Covid shutdowns and fears.

The Sayre football team was limited to just three games, while Athens played three games in 11 days to get its full six-game schedule in.

On the field, the fall season South of the Border was all about Athens.

The volleyball team reached its first District finals in 15 years. The Lady Wildcats were the seventh seed in the District 2-4 Sub-Regional, and delivered a thrilling five-set win over second-seeded Greater Nanticoke in the quarterfinals, then swept Tunkhannock, before falling to Berwick in the finals.

The Athens boys cross country team went 10-0 to win its second straight NTL title, while the Lady Wildcats were 9-1. The reduced number of runners qualifying for States due to Covid keep three Athens boys that would have normally qualified from the PIAA meet.

The Athens football team staged a tremendous turnaround, going from 1-10 in 2019 to 5-1 in 2020.

Both the Athens soccer teams saw their runs atop the NTL snapped — both by Wellsboro. The Lady Wildcats also saw their District 4 three-peat come up short, and the boys missed out on their fifth straight trip to the D4 title game.

There were some bright spots in Sayre.

Junior Kannon VanDuzer finished ninth at the District 4 Golf Championships, and senior Carrie Claypool finished eighth at the District 4 Championships, missing a trip to States by less than 1 second.

Otherwise, there was bad luck, and heartbreak.

The boys soccer team improved from one win in 2019 to five wins in 2020, despite an injury that cost senior standout Cody VanBenthuysen a large chunk of the season.

The Sayre football team was 1-2, with both losses — to Athens and Wyalusing — by 3 points.

Perhaps the saddest moment in the entire 2020-21 sports year came in just the third minute of the girls soccer season when Sayre junior Roz Haney, who scored 67 goals in her first two seasons, suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Lady Redskins finished the season at 1-10.

This spring, the New York State “fall” season kicked off in Section IV in early March.

With no postseason at the state level, many coaches approached the season wanting to develop younger athletes for this fall. Others wanted to reward seniors for participating with no real reward to play for.

Tioga football, led by Emmett Wood, racked up a 5-1 record, while Waverly struggled to a 1-4 mark against a tough schedule, which included losses to Tioga, Owego, and Newark Valley. The loss of two-way standout David Hallett to a knee injury in Week 2 was a big hit to the Wolverines’ cause.

Waverly senior Collin Wright had a strong cross country season, and would have qualified for the New York State meet had there been one.

Tioga volleyball put together a 7-3 season, with two of its losses coming to defending state champ Candor, and the other to defending state runner-up Owego.

The Tioga girls soccer team was 3-3-1 on the season — its best record in several years, and it would likely have been even better had Watkins Glen not folded its program early in the season.

Tioga senior Olivia Ayres capped a brilliant field hockey career, finishing with 42 career goals and 17 assists. Unfortunately, the Lady Tigers were 0-7.

All in all, the “fall” sports season in March-April just didn’t feel right. I’m hoping I live a long life, and never have to watch spring football in the Empire State again.

Looking ahead, for the kids’ sake, I’m hoping the 2021 fall season will be unfettered and normal.


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