One failure to communicate a change voted on in January may yet put a wrench into Tyrone’s plans of hosting a District 6 playoff game.
However, officials from Saint Marys are doing what they can to mitigate the impact of a game scheduled against Tyrone they say they cancelled shortly after the new year.
Tyrone officials learned Friday evening that Saint Marys was no longer playing its game against the Golden Eagles scheduled for this week. But rather than handing Tyrone an unanticipated bye week, the game will be forfeited, according to Saint Marys athletic director Terry Straub.
It is still unclear, though, how that will impact Tyrone’s seeding in the postseason.
What is clear is that Saint Marys has taken full responsibility for the mix up, which Tyrone learned about Friday just before its game against Hollidaysburg.
“I want to make it very clear this is in no part Tyrone School District’s fault,” Straub said, “or for that matter Mr. Luke Rhoades, the AD there, his fault. Our coach, after last year’s contest, had decided he did not want to play a Game 10 because in District 9 triple-A our playoff seedings are determined by our league play, so that Game 10, for Saint Marys Area, means absolutely nothing, other than the potential of getting a player hurt or ejected and then losing them for playoffs.”
Straub said that following Chris Dworek’s year-end assessment, when the school determined to bring him back as the football coach, the administration decided on January 21 to drop the Week 10 game against the Eagles. A person was assigned to communicate that change to Tyrone officials, but school officials in Tyrone were never contacted.
“That lies completely on Saint Marys Area, our failure to communicate that to Tyrone,” Straub said.
That breakdown in communication could have major implications for Tyrone, depending on District 6’s decision on how it will handle the Saint Marys forfeit. Heading into Week 10, Tyrone is 7-2 and tied with defending champion Central for the No. 2 seed behind Penn Cambria. A win over the Dutch should have been enough to earn the Eagles sole possession of second place and a home game in the semifinals.
Without any points from a win over Saint Marys, Tyrone would fall to third place and travel to Roaring Spring to face the Dragons in the first round.
The situation put Saint Marys officials on the hot seat, which is why they chose to accept a forfeit, Straub said. With or without the game against Tyrone, the Dutch will still play against Punxsutawney next week in the District 9 3A semifinals.
“What we have since elected to do, and I informed Mr. Rhoades of this earlier today, is that Saint Marys Area will forfeit that contest, so it won’t have a negative impact on Tyrone’s postseason play,” said Straub.
For his part, Rhoades declined to comment on the forfeit until he had received word of it in writing and until he had heard from officials from District 6. He did, however, explain the strange set of circumstances in which he and Tyrone coach John Franco heard of the cancellation.
Rhoades said he was speaking with Hollidaysburg football coach and athletic director Homer DeLattre before last week’s game when DeLattre mentioned that he had received a call from Dworek asking for film on a team, but that team wasn’t Tyrone. DeLattre was surprised by that, Rhoades said, and when he asked about it further Dworek told him the Dutch weren’t playing Tyrone this season.
“Homer found that out Friday during the day, and then before the game we were talking and he told me. That’s how I found out,” Rhoades said.
Had that conversation never occurred, Rhoades said, Tyrone’s football team would have been boarding a bus Friday headed for Saint Marys, likely to find nothing but an empty stadium.
Straub said he assumed the forfeit would give Tyrone the same amount of points it would have received for a win on the field because “a victory is a victory, regardless if it was played on the field or a forfeit.” However, he said that as a member of the District 9 committee he didn’t want to speak for District 6.
“I don’t want to venture a guess how that will impact Tyrone. Hopefully favorably,” he said. “The last thing we want to occur is Tyrone to come away with a negative impact in terms of their playoffs. It’s our hope that this is the best solution at this point.”
The forfeit brings to a close an odd two-game series between the two schools that began last season with a game in Tyrone almost as strange as the unannounced cancellation this season. Saint Marys was 8-1 coming into Gray-Veterans Memorial Field with one of the top passing attacks in the area. Tyrone, meanwhile, was 4-5 and shooting for a No. 2 spot in the District playoffs with a win.
The game was tied 14-14 after Tyrone scored with 9:52 to play, but then Dworek pulled his starters, opening the door for the Eagles to score two more touchdowns and win 28-14.
At the time, Dworek said the plan all along was to pull his starters after three quarters because they had a playoff game against Clearfield looming the following week. He also noted that the “chippy-ness” of the game influenced his decision, possibly meaning that he didn’t want to lose a player for the following week over an ejection.
Franco was frustrated after Tyrone’s game Friday, a 41-28 win over Hollidaysburg, because the bye week threatened to kill the momentum Tyrone had been building over the last several weeks. The Eagles were just about at peak health for their game against the Tigers, and for seven of its last eight quarters the offense had moved the ball at will.
“I don’t like not having this tenth game,” he said Friday. “In college and the pros, that might work out, but in high school it’s so much rhythm. I just won’t want to see us lose that.”