TREDYFFRIN – The football practices that Tim Lazorka organized this summer have taken on new dimensions, so it stands to reason that the first game would be too.
Lazorka’s training in his second season at Devon Prep would have looked odd when he was hired. Instead of a good two hours of drills and tactics, a significant portion is devoted to what once seemed silly: where to put the bags, how far to stretch, the water break procedure, how to snuggle up, and celebrate.
So on Wednesday, before Devon Prep accepted the Christian Academy for the two teams’ first game in 2020, the team talks were to change as well.
“I said to the guys at the start of the game, ‘Look at him. We are here in uniform. Take a look at March to ask yourself if we would be here, at school, around each other, socially distant, of course, ”Lazorka said. “Just having the opportunity to come here and compete, we’re very lucky for that.”
That lucky word was a common refrain after the 3-0 TCA victory. The schools are two of the few schools in Southeastern Pennsylvania – and TCA, along with Delco Christian and Sacred Heart Academy, is one of only three in Delaware County – to play fall sports during the COVID pandemic -19. He came dressed in new procedures: bench players wearing masks, face shields strewn over shoes and backpacks on the Devon sideline, the ‘grab your masks’ command added to ‘grab a drink’ before the half-time group (looser).
But the football team felt normal at a time when so few.
“When we’re on the side we have to wear masks,” said Caleb Chambers of the TCA, who has scored twice. “When we get off the bus, we have to wear masks, it’s obviously abnormal. But once on the pitch, it’s a good time.
“Once you’re there you’re in the game, it just feels right,” said Devon Prep captain Nate Kelly. “I knew at first it would be weird. I knew sitting on the bench with a mask on would be weird. But it’s like every other football game I’ve played. Once you’re in the game, you’re there.
Evan Sareyka (there is always another Sareyka) shoots a PK and there is no stopping for his hold.
2-0 TCA, last minute first half pic.twitter.com/xxuziucclN
– Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 16, 2020
Both teams had to break the prevailing trend in the zone to play. The Bicentennial Athletic League has left the decisions to the schools, according to longtime TCA athletic director Rod Haseltine. In keeping with the spirit of the PIAA decision, which offered local control, the BAL allowed schools to determine their participation in the fall. It was a pragmatic move, with members from all four suburban counties plus Philadelphia, not to mention public, private and founding members. The piecemeal approach differed from leagues like Centrale and Ches-Mont, which chose to report en masse.
Several schools, Haseltine said, have pulled out, including charters that have moved all online learning and some to Philadelphia. But the Crusaders filled a 10-game schedule against Phil-Mont Christian, Faith Christian, Plumstead Christian, Delco Christian and Dock Mennonite.
It’s fluid and everyday, Haseltine said. But it is something.
“I think the PIAA did a really good job trying to get the players to play,” Haseltine said. “I think they understand the importance of it, and (PIAA Executive Director) Dr. (Robert) Lombardi, (District 1 President) Dr. (Michael) Barber, all of these guys have really been at it. listening to children. And to do it in a safe way as well: they force us to follow strict guidelines, and I appreciate that, parents appreciate that. “
Devon Prep’s journey has been even more bumpy: The Catholic League, in consultation with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, chose not to participate in the fall season on August 24. But Devon Prep, a member of the first but not the last, was able to make up its mind. independent of archdiocesan control. Along with La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep, other PCL but not Archdiocesan schools, and Holy Ghost Prep, which let BAL become independent, formed the President’s Cup, a four-way round robin.
That competition may be in jeopardy with St. Joseph’s Prep announcing that it has suspended in-person teaching due to multiple positive COVID-19 cases. But that only underscores the appreciation for Wednesday’s game, where nothing that is written is taken for granted.
“It’s awesome,” Kelly said. “Neither of us really expected to do a season this year, so we’ve been preparing for a month and a half, we didn’t know what was going to happen. Just having this one game feels good. We’ll see what happens in the future, but it’s great. … We literally enjoy every second we can get, in training and on the pitch.
There was a little more on the court to enjoy on the TCA side. The Crusaders were leading 2-0 at halftime and controlled most of the game. Chambers’ first goal came when he jumped on a goalie error, knocking the ball off Colin McCusker, bypassing the keeper and sinking into the empty net.
Evan Sareyka got a penalty with 80 seconds left in the first and covered the finish in the corner to McCusker’s left. Chambers added confidence after the break, a shot from outside the box that spurted into the hands of goaltender Jack Ferry.
“It’s amazing,” Chambers said. “Few teams play, and for us to be able to play is a blessing. For us, starting our season with a 3-0 win is the best way to start as good as possible.”
Devon Prep’s best chance came in the first half, with Kelly playing against Chris Walton behind defense, but the striker’s arrival was right off the post with goalkeeper Zac O’Brien out and beaten. O’Brien made one save in the first half and Brody Dutton saved two in the second to combine the shutout.
The most important takeaway, however, was a chance to compete. Kelly and Chambers simply see it from messages from friends at other schools that don’t have a fall season.
Haseltine sees it in keeping with the school’s mission: one of the smallest schools in District 1, the Crusaders have built disproportionate success around multisport athletes. On Wednesday, they only fielded 12 players, with two goalkeepers playing alternately on the field. The final score is therefore not the most important factor.
“The process is just as important as the end point,” Haseltine said. “Everything we do at Christian Academy, we try to glorify the Lord, and that includes sports. It’s just a part. Getting those kids out there is just part of the process. The latest efforts are great, but it’s not the end of the game.