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THE FINAL WORD: PUTTING A BOW ON A (HOPEFULLY) ONE-OF-A-KIND 2020-21 (2021-08-16)

What a year.

The fact that I’m running my final season-ending awards for the 2020-21 season, on the opening day of fall practices for the 2021-22 season, should tell you something,

The 2020-21 school year started under a cloud of doubt, thanks to the Covid restrictions, but PIAA forged ahead and provided its student-athletes with an opportunity to compete.

It wasn’t perfect, but PIAA made the effort, and for that I applaud them.

Despite PIAA’s best efforts, local school boards and administrators made it difficult at times, postponing games out of fear of playing at Sayre, which is just a few hundred yards away from the Robert Packer Hospital / Guthrie Clinic. Ditto for games at Athens.

The Sayre football team played just three games, and nearly every team in every sport lost at least one game — most lost several — to Covid outbreaks / scares and cancellations.

In New York, despite infection rates well under 1 percent in the vast majority of the region, and the State, Section IV canceled all fall sports, and New York State canceled all fall state championships.

The State followed suit weeks later and canceled the winter state championships. By mid-November, it had canceled the springs state championships as well.

After pushing back winter sports to the first week of January (when infection rates were significantly higher than they had been in the fall), Section IV did make a bit of an effort, and elected to cram the winter, fall, and spring seasons into a five-month span — beginning Jan. 4 and ending June 12.

The PIAA had some hiccups in the winter season, but all in all it was fairly smooth. The same could be said for the spring season.

Section IV finally had some postseason action in the spring. Of course, while the idea was good, the execution was flawed.

The baseball playoffs were crammed into a five-day period, so the winning teams had to have enough pitching to play three games in five days. Who has that kind of pitching, especially in Class B, C and D.

Let’s just say the baseball was a bit ugly by the end of the semi-final round.

The 2020-21 sports year in Pa. was different than usual, but teams and individuals played and performed with something at stake.

Athens junior Gavin Bradley won a silver medal at the PIAA wrestling championships. Athens senior Asher Ellis won a pair of gold medals at the District 4 Track & Field Championships, and went on to compete in two events at the PIAA Championships.

The Sayre baseball team won its third District 4 title in four seasons, and the Athens volleyball team made its first appearance in a District championship game in 15 years. And, several other Athens and Sayre teams made District 4 semi-final appearances.

In New York, it was different.

Under classmen were able to get some varsity experience, and coaches were able to get a better handle on what they would have in 2021-22, but the seniors in New York got the short end of the stick.

The mantra is New York was, “they are getting seasons, that’s better than nothing!” But was it?

There’s no reason NYSPHSAA could not have done the same thing PIAA did — host a postseason. All it would have taken was a little backbone.

The 2020-21 high school sports year is one I will never forget. Hopefully, we’ll never see another one like it.

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