COVID shut down these fall sports teams. What does that tell us about the winter season?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed nearly every facet of life since March. High school sports were no exception.
Athletics were suspended on March 12, and the decision to cancel the entire spring season and the remainder of the winter championships was made less than a month later.
Eventually, after unofficial offseason workouts, teams were allowed to begin practice again on Aug. 24 once schools approved safety guidelines and the PIAA voted to move forward with fall sports. After that, more than 30 District 3 teams had to put a stop to practices, games, and, in some cases, seasons, because of positive COVID results in the school districts or on the individual teams.
Heading into the beginning of winter sports practices on Friday, Nov. 20, the climate has not improved. COVID cases are spiking, with Pennsylvania reporting its highest amount of daily cases ever on Wednesday with 6,486.
Here's a timeline of the fall sports teams that were affected by COVID-related shutdowns and what the PIAA has to say as student-athletes head into a new season.
July 13: Shippensburg football: A football player tested positive for COVID. Shippensburg shut down preseason practices for all sports.
July 13: Lampeter-Strasburg football: The Pioneers suspended workouts due to a coach testing positive for COVID.
July 13: Cedar Cliff field hockey and boys' soccer: One player on both teams tested positive, resulting in shutdowns.
July 20: Big Spring girls' volleyball: A member of the team tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in a shutdown.
July 22: Reading athletics: The school suspended all athletics due to an athlete in an unspecified sport coming in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID. It would eventually decide to cancel all fall athletics for the season.
July 22: Schuylkill Valley football, junior high cheerleading: The program shut down the two programs due to a parent testing positive.
July 23: Muhlenberg football: The Muhls shut down workouts after it was determined a player had secondary contact with someone who tested positive for COVID.
July 26: Wyomissing football: The school suspended football workouts after a player tested positive.
Aug. 10: Central Dauphin athletics: Multiple student-athletes tested positive for COVID, resulting in a shutdown.
Aug. 11: Milton Hershey athletics: The district decided to cancel all fall sports due to COVID concerns.
Aug. 17: Susquehanna Township football: Members of the football team were exposed to a positive case, causing a suspension of activities.
Aug. 17: Exeter athletics: Following a week where a football player and cross country runner tested positive for COVID, Exeter shut down all sports with three more athletes contracting the virus.
Aug. 20: Harrisburg athletics: The school district decided to opt out of fall sports. The football team would reverse course and eventually return to action on Oct. 9.
Sept. 16: Spring Grove freshmen football: The entire team quarantined following a positive test by a player
Sept. 28: Susquehanna Township football (second shutdown): Players on the team tested positive, bringing a second shutdown and the first one that caused Susquehanna to miss games.
Oct. 6: Dover athletics: Three individuals test positive for COVID in the district, prompting a decision to temporarily halt athletics.
Oct. 8: West York girls' volleyball: A player on the team tested positive, causing a shutdown.
Oct. 9: Newport football: The team faced a positive test on a gameday, resulting in a canceled matchup with James Buchanan.
Oct. 16: State College football: A player, who eventually tested negative, exhibited symptoms, leading to a game against Carlisle to be moved from a Friday to Monday.
Oct. 27: Harrisburg football: Positive cases for the Cougars caused the team to withdraw from the District 3 tournament after a struggle to reach four games to qualify.
Oct. 30: Boiling Springs field hockey: Due to a COVID case, the team withdrew from the District 3 tournament.
Oct. 30: Garden Spot football: The entire team quarantined after a COVID exposure, missing two games.
Nov. 4: Warwick girls' soccer: Warwick, which saw its school district shut down, withdrew from the District 3 tournament due to COVID protocols.
Nov. 5: Boiling Springs football: Planning to wrap up their season with a matchup against Littlestown after being eliminated in the playoffs, the Bubblers year ended with team facing a quarantine following a reported positive test by a player.
Nov. 5: Palmyra girls' volleyball: While there was no official confirmation it was a player on the team, the volleyball squad was the only Cougars team affected by a COVID-related health and safety issue that led to the defending state champs to withdraw from districts.
Nov. 7: High Point Baptist girls soccer: High Point withdrew from the District 3 1A tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.
Nov. 9: Warwick football: With 14 COVID cases in the school, Warwick switched to virtual learning and ended its fall sports season, taking the team out of its District 3 title game.
Nov. 10: Manheim Township boys soccer: Due to a COVID case, Manheim forfeited its title game matchup against Cumberland Valley.
Nov. 10: Carlisle football: Due to a school-wide shutdown, Carlisle canceled its regular season finale.
Nov. 12: Manheim Central football: After agreeing to a short-notice season finale against Chambersburg, Central backed out of the game after the school shutdown.
Nov. 13: West Perry athletics: The school put athletics on hold due to a handful of positive COVID cases at the school.
Nov. 13: Greencastle-Antrim wrestling: Due to a shutdown at both the high school and middle school, and citing PIAA guidelines that wrestling features increased transmission risk, G-A announced it would not field high school or middle school wrestling programs.
Nov. 13: Cedar Bowl: The annual game between Cedar Crest and Lebanon was canceled due to the rising number of COVID cases in Lebanon County.
Nov. 17: Manheim Township delays start of winter sports to Nov. 30
Nov. 17: Mid-Penn announces new winter sports dates
Nov. 18: Lancaster-Lebanon league announces new winter sports dates
Nov. 19: Cumberland Valley football: The cross-town Thanksgiving Day season finale against Mechanicsburg was called off, as a Cumberland Valley student tested positive for COVID-19.
So, what's next for PIAA winter sports?
On Wednesday, the PIAA sounded ready to proceed full steam ahead with a winter sport season despite the interruptions the fall season faced.
In fact, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi remained confident that in following health plans and protocols, the fall was a success simply for reaching the point of playoffs.
"I think our schools did a terrific job in the fall," Lombardi said. "They all should be complimented that we're even as far as we are, that we're 10 days away from completing a fall season ... I think they proved to their communities that this can be done if it's taken seriously, which it was."
That doesn't mean the winter won't be different. While there are some factors that will make the season easier, like smaller rosters, the greatest challenge remains the fact that the sports will be indoor.
The state also issued a mask mandate this week that asks competitors, coaches and officials to wear masks even while playing. It's a motion that the PIAA says it will support but ultimately will let schools decide whether or not they implement.
"Obviously everybody is keeping an eye on the changes here in the last couple of weeks," Lombardi said. "And I think with an abundance of caution, our sports medicine committee said that people need to continually evaluate their local situation and what's going on at their schools to see how we can proceed with the startup of the winter season."