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Montoursville football, girls soccer allowed to play this weekend

It was a wild 11 hours, filled with extreme lows and redemptive highs.

Through it all, the Montoursville football learned it has quite a few friends across the creek. That does not mean the intensity Saturday when friends collide will be diminished, but both sides are happy they will be playing, period.

The Loyalsock at Montoursville District 4 Class AAA semifinal is back on following a 7-hour Montoursville school board meeting that lasted until 1:30 a.m., Wednesday morning. At 2 p.m., Tuesday, Montoursville had announced it was going to remote learning following a second positive COVID-19 test in its district and that all extra-curricular activities were canceled until November 3. That meant both the football and girls soccer teams would have to forfeit their playoff games this weekend. Since no players have tested positive, however, the board voted 7-0 to allow both teams to continue their seasons.

That means the football team will host Loyalsock as regularly scheduled Saturday at 1 p.m. and the girls soccer team will play at Troy on Friday at 4 p.m. And that is the way both Montoursville and its cross-creek rival like it. Loyalsock coach Justin Van Fleet as well as players Korie Mayer and Brendan Clark were among many from Loyalsock who reached out, expressing their condolences when it appeared Montoursville’s season had ended Tuesday. On the field the rivalry is fierce between two tradition-laden programs, but it also is defined by mutual respect.

“It’s a whirlwind of emotions we went through and it was nice to have their support and backing. This generation gets a lot of flack for being lazy and not wanting to work as hard as others and I’ll argue that,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. “The kids I work with are getting up early and working and lifting all summer long and doing everything asked of them and then to see the compassion for our ‘archrival’ and the empathy they showed … our country is going to be all right if these kids are the ones taking the lead in the next 10-15 years. With the kids I’ve had the experience to coach and coach against I’m optimistic of where we are headed and with everything I’ve experienced the last 24 hours I cannot say enough about these young people.”

Montoursville was headed back to practice Wednesday, tired and emotionally-drained, but excited. The Warriors (7-0) completed their first undefeated regular season of the 2000s and are seeking a third straight district championship. Players and coaches were heartbroken, especially after gathering shortly after the original cancellation announcement Tuesday. Now they feel reborn.

“I’m exhausted, but I am glowing because of how proud I am of these kids for how they have handled everything,” said Keefer, who like many of his players, stayed up to watch how the vote played out. “It means a lot to them. People don’t realize the investment these kids put into this particular sport and the way it was ripped from them was just awful and to have it come back like that created a lot of joy.”

Now the challenge is overcoming this chaotic two-day ride and refocusing on Loyalsock in a rematch of last year’s district championship. This will be the second time in three weeks the two perennial title contenders have met with Montoursville winning a hard-fought 23-12 contest 12 days ago. That also will be a challenge for Loyalsock (4-2) who went from planning for Montoursville to thinking it had a bye into the district final back to preparing for the semifinals.

Still, the Lancers did not want to reach the championship that way. Montoursville has won four straight in this series and Loyalsock wanted another shot. They stood together over the last 48 hours but Montoursville and Loyalsock can’t wait to be going against each other again Saturday.

“There’s a lot of joy, but we have to get over the emotional hangover to be able to get back on track so the kids are ready,” Keefer said. “We’re fortunate to be playing and it doesn’t put us behind the 8-ball missing practice (Tuesday). We have to put that behind us and get ready to play football and just focus on Loyalsock.”

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