Flag On The Play: High School Football Scheduling Controversy

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Highly anticipated football match-up may not happen

WEST PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Two regional high school football powers have had their schedule a meeting on field,  now the Wyoming Area Warriors may not keep their date hosting the Southern Columbia Tigers.

For high school football fans in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, one date has been circled on many calendars for the last two weeks- October 11. Unfortunately, with some recent controversy, there’s no telling if fans will get their marquee matchup.

A Week 8 PIAA football schedule originally had the Wyoming Area Warriors slated to take on Holy Redeemer and the nationally acclaimed Southern Columbia Tigers taking on conference opponent Shikellamy. On September 17, news broke out of Exeter that there had been a change of plans. Holy Redeemer would take on Shikellamy and the cross-conference marquee matchup of Wyoming Area and Southern Columbia would take place in Luzerne County on October 11.

“Coach Roth, who is also the athletic director at Southern Columbia, reached out to our athletic director, Coach Joe Pizano, and for the last few days, they’d been working on the details with the four schools involved. Everybody had to agree and that finally got confirmed this afternoon,” Warriors head coach Randy Spencer said Tuesday.

All four schools, both PIAA districts and at least the Wyoming Valley Conference were all on board. The problem? The Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference had not given their blessing and Southern Columbia had broken league bylaws by opting out of a conference matchup. Fast-forward to this week, state lawmakers are now being involved.

“So I get a phone call last night about this. There was a vote taken by the Heartland Conference to not go forward with this game and do sanctions against Southern Columbia for this,” Representative Aaron Kauffer said.

Eyewitness News spoke with Jim Becker in a phone call. He is uniquely involved on both sides of this issue as he is the president of the PHAC as well as the principal of Southern Columbia. He says that the schedule change give the best competition for the athletes, staff, and parents. The main concern for the PHAC has been that instead of them giving approval, they had to read about the change online and in different media outlets.

“I think we need to talk about what’s in the best interest of the kids, the players, and the students. That’s to have a good competition with other teams like this,” Kauffer said.

Kauffer has since reached back out to Eyewitness News and says 3:30 p.m. Wednesday is the drop-dead time for all parties involved to come to a conclusion. Becker tells Eyewitness News that the PHAC has never had to sanction a school and that Southern Columbia is going to make their case for a more competitive matchup but says “We’re going to play a game on that day. Who it’s against is still up in the air.”

Becker also tells Eyewitness News that Southern Columbia has already changed their schedule previously this season. But that the school is committed and values their membership in the Heartland Conference.

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