One of the most iconic coal region football teams cancelled the remainder of its 2019 season.
On Thursday night, Marian Catholic High School administration announced on social media that it had to call off its last two football games in the 2019 season.
That means automatic wins for Mahanoy Area and Tamaqua, the Colts final two opponents.
Last week, Marian won its first game of the season, edging winless Shenandoah Valley, 9-8, on Senior Night at Men of Marian Stadium near Hometown.
Marian Catholic Forfeits Final 2 Football Games in 2019 Season
Here’s what the school posted to its Facebook page on Thursday night:
“A tough emotional decision has been made by Marian Catholic High School to forfeit the remaining football games of this season involving Mahanoy Area on October 18th and Tamaqua Area on October 25th. This difficult decision was based solely on the safety of the team’s remaining fourteen healthy football players. Marian Catholic appreciates the hard work and dedication of our student athletes and their coaches throughout this season and we look to move forward and plan for the 2020 season.”
The announcement got mostly positive feedback from the school’s social following.
However, it likely foiled a lot of big plans for the Colts opponents. That’s especially true at rival Mahanoy Area.
The Golden Bears had their Senior Night festivities all planned out for tonight. And Marian’s forfeit means Mahanoy Area had to make some last-second plans of its own.
The school originally planned to carry on with Senior Night activities despite the lack of a game but then along came a rival.
Administrators at Shenandoah Valley offered to let Mahanoy Area have its Senior Night activities next week, in Shenandoah, when those two rival schools wrap up their regular season schedule.
Here’s what the Mahanoy Area Football Boosters posted on Facebook late Thursday:
That move was commended by another Schuylkill League Division 2 rival, Minersville. The school tweeted a nice recognition of Shenandoah Valley’s gesture toward Mahanoy Area:
In a true display of sportsmanship; the Shenandoah Valley SD has offered Mahanoy Area to have their senior recognition at SV next Friday when they host the Bears. Well done, Blue Devils. To Marian and their fans; looking forward to seeing you back next year. Hang in there,Colts
— Minersville Athletic (@MinersvilleA) October 18, 2019
Marian Football on the Brink
Nearly 30 years ago, Marian Catholic football won the 1990 state championship. And the Colts were a perennial powerhouse. Even in leaner years, Marian was no easy out and gave teams above their classification a tough time.
But that wasn’t the case this season and it looks like it could be an uphill, almost impossible climb to that heyday.
Check out this photo of the Colts running onto the field for a home game at the beginning of the 2019 season.
Based on other photos shared by the school and team booster club, there are just as many players in uniform as there are cheerleaders on the sideline.
This is Marian football these days? Fans of classic coal region football would find this hard to believe.
But according to the school’s post on Thursday, only a portion of the kids in the photo above were available for Friday night’s scheduled game at Mahanoy Area. And even in the team assembled above, that’s not nearly enough to field a competitive football team … even if all 20 were superstars.
If Marian can’t boost participation in football in a hurry, this is going to become a trend. Attrition caused by the wear and tear of the sport and a long season will naturally thin the herd as the season progresses. That’s why, if those low turnout numbers don’t increase — like, multiply — Marian will likely face a similar scenario at this time in 2020.
Marian Isn’t Alone … Especially in the Schuylkill League
The Colts aren’t the only team facing similar issues around football.
In general, the sport is getting played by less and less youths today. Add to that the fact that a lot of teams and schools the size of Marian are having a difficult time fielding competitive squads.
Marian plays in Schuylkill League Division 2. That’s the small schools in the area. And it wasn’t until these teams started playing against each other did any of them start accumulating wins this year. Otherwise, it’s been one lopsided loss after another.
Before forfeiting the last two games of the year, Marian had just 1 win. That came last week against the Blue Devils, and it was a close one, 9-8. That was the closest game all year for the Colts. Up until this week’s game that won’t happen, Marian got outscored by a total score of 309-52. That’s basically losing every game by an average of 38-6.
And for as bad as that seems, the Colts — who threw in the towel on the last two games this year — may likely finish above Shenandoah on the season. They’ve been outscored 318-62 and half of their points came in a thrilling overtime loss at the beginning of the season. Since then, it’s best classified as a rebuilding experience.
Elsewhere among the small local schools, only 1 team has a winning record. Schuylkill Haven is at 4-4 overall this year but only started winning when they started playing Division 2 teams.
Schools with weak football participation have a tough sell on their hands convincing kids to get involved with programs that seem to be going backward and seemingly have no chance at winning most Friday nights in the fall.