BERWICK, COLUMBIA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — “I mean it’s not what it used to be but we still have that deep heritage and tradition. We still have those fans who have had season tickets for over 30 and 40 years,” said Berwick Area High’s athletic director and former NFL player, Bo Orlando. “They live for Friday nights and it kind of reminds me of having spent time in Texas playing for the Oilers, there’s nothing bigger than Texas football. This is the closest we can get.”
Recent guidelines passed down from Pennsylvania state leadership means no spectators for fall sports. There are some communities where that hits harder.
“I relate the fans here to the 12th man in Seattle,” said local school board member Jon Morell. “It’s that kind of spirit. It’s that kind of boost to the football players where they hear the fans behind them, cheering.”
Whether the Berwick Bulldogs have been a powerhouse or run of the mill from year to year, the support doesn’t waiver.
“Everywhere I go, out to the coffee shop, everybody’s talking about Berwick football. ‘How are we going to be this year?’ It starts the day after the season and it kind of reminds me of when I played and how Coach Curry had us fired up 365 days a year,” Orlando added.
More sports than football are under the microscope of the Keystone State’s reopening. That means athletic directors like Orlando are rolling with the punches.
“There’s still a lot of unset things with the rules and guidelines that we follow and we do what we can, and our best,” he said. “You just have to follow your policies and things may change from day to day. It’s whatever the governor says. He’s the boss right now. He can come and shut everything down tomorrow.”
While not having fans in the stands is an absolutely haunting prospect here in Berwick, everyone involved understands that safety is paramount.
“We’ve got a good group of teachers, a great group of administrators and the school board is supporting them any way they can to make sure that the kids are safe,” said Morell.
The guidelines handed down do what they can to also protect fans and families from potential COVID spread. It doesn’t make the circumstance any easier.
“No Friday night football for Berwick fans is a real downer,” said Mike Monaco, with the Berwick Boulevard Association. “The whole community comes out between young and old. Not to be able to cheer their team on is going to be rough for the community.”
Rather than sulk, a tight-knit community is working on a plan.
“We’re in the initial stages of trying to be next to the field during Friday night lights. We’re hoping to maybe stream the games somehow and put up a big screen but there’s a lot of hurdles we have to get over,” Monico added. “We’re going to follow the guidelines where everybody’s separated. We want the families to be here, first. The families of the players so they can be right next to their sons playing. If an unfortunate accident happens and they get hurt, they’re right here so they could be by the field to see them. We’re trying to also maybe do some fundraisers for all of the organizations in here like the band, the senior stand and the team.”
The goal, pending approval? Get the entire community together safely, give back to everyone who will miss out on the action and most importantly…
“Biggest thing with this whole experience is it doesn’t matter if you’re Berwick, Southern or Valley West,” said Monaco. “We’re here to root these kids on who’ve practiced hard and play hard. We want them to know we’re here for them.”
As prospective recruits, friends and family wait on the next set of guidelines?
“It’s tough. It really is,” said Morell. “The community is anxious about what’s going to happen to their football, the band and the cheerleaders.”
As of early August the hope of playing football, fans or not, is still alive.
“We know there are going to be obstacles along the way and if these guys can get seven or eight games in, that would be close enough to a season,” said Orlando. “At least they get to put it on and go out their senior year and play some games and hopefully we get more than seven in.”
Updated guidance on fall athletics from the state is expected on August 5th.