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A Season Saved, An Autumn to Remember

We have so very much to be thankful for here in the West Branch Valley. We must not allow politics, differing views, and opinions to divide us. This goes double for any virus. I don’t understand today’s social media world when people who have a difference of opinion allow it to create the rage and hatred of each other it does. It’s okay not to agree; that’s the beauty of democracy.

Most importantly, we must all work together to protect everything we are so blessed with. This includes the freedom of the very concept to agree or disagree with one another. We all must work together in the name of good.

The perfect example of what I am talking about is the fall sports season for Pennsylvania high school athletes. As so many of our everyday freedoms and activities were falling victim to an overzealous governor and the fear of a germ, Pennsylvanians needed a common cause to unite them. As I watched what unfolded, the only comparison I could come up with was that football in the Keystone state became the equivalent of the tea that ended up in Boston Harbor.

The tradition of Friday night lights united Pennsylvanians no matter of political affiliation, race, religion, or differing views on the COVID crisis. Individuals came together in support of a common goal and belief. Simply summarized as — let the kids play! A beautiful thing then happened with this movement of protest against the governor; all the other fall sports seasons that would have been lost came right on along with this effort. Just imagine the Susquehanna River flowing around the Harrisburg area with thousands of footballs, soccer balls, tennis balls, golf balls, and cross-country shoes. This representing a declaration of freedom for athletic competition to King Thomas Wolf.

What made this happen was parents standing strong for their high school student athletics. Combined with unwavering effort, research, common sense, and leadership by Executive Director of the PIAA, Dr. Robert Lombardi, this then supported by the PIAA Board of Directors and most school districts. All working together to not allow the governor to overstep his boundaries. He was held to his words of allowing the PIAA, the districts in which they compete, and the schools to make the decision to play or not to play. Dr. Lombardi doubled down on the governor’s shenanigans when he tried to double-cross PIAA sports and went public that he believed no sports should be played until after January 1, 2021. This is something Mr. Lombardi, the PIAA Board of Directors, and Governor Wolf should have discussed prior to his attempted play through the media.

At the point in time when this happened, Governor Wolf and his posse were stepping all over many of Pennsylvanians’ rights; I could not believe people had not come together in outrage. It’s hard to believe that it took high school sports to finally become the unified rallying cry. In the same breath, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised because athletics unite individuals from every walk of life. It molds them into teammates and those that support a team concept. It’s a unification of families, faculty, student body, and community.

So, thank you to all my fellow Pennsylvanians who stood up for the fall sports season. Thank you to Dr. Lombardi for having the intestinal fortitude to make this happen. Thank you for enabling the cheerleaders to cheer, the band to play on, and the homecoming queen to be crowned. Most of all, thank you to our area’s coaches and athletes who did amazing things with this unprecedented fall sports season.

A Webb Weekly gold-colored congratulations to South Side’s very own Olivia Dorner. The young lady became the first District IV tennis player to win a State Championship. A shoutout to her father, John, as he has dedicated much of his life to the teaching and coaching of tennis. What an amazing accomplishment shared by the Dorner family. I must also throw in that John and I won a West Branch Conference Championship together while playing football for Coach Ken Robbins.

A tip of my hat with the American Flag on the side to our district football champions!

At the single A level, Coach Sean Tetreault and his Muncy Indians. What a great program the young coach has built. His tribe of Indians has won four district titles in five years.

At the 4A level, Coach Tom Gravish’s Jersey Shore Bulldogs again brought home district gold. At press time, this undefeated team was preparing to take on Crestwood in the State Tournament.

During Coach Gravish’s tenure, the Bulldogs have simply gone from mediocrity to #1 in the state of Pennsylvania. Jersey Shore is currently the top-ranked team at the 4A level in PA. In the past nine seasons, Jersey Shore has won five district titles and played in the district final every year but one. Did I mention he turned a program around that underachieved for decades, and during his first season, they didn’t win a game?

What an unbelievably great job Coach Gravish, and his staff have done in building a Dawg Dynasty. Hopefully, in the very near future, they make our cover like South’s Olivia Dorner did with State Championship gold!

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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