High school athletes worried about fall sports season

Start of season was pushed back from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21

Keelyn Peacock is going to stick with her original game plan and graduate from Stillwater High School a semester early before heading off to Arkansas State University early next year.

The soccer star is cognizant that she may not have a fall senior season, and if there is one, it will be condensed and be without a state tournament that her team won in 2019 and 2018.

“I’ll be happy if we have five games,” Peacock, a three-time all-state first-team selection, said earlier this week. “I’ll be happy with anything.”

The thought of not playing again with her friends and schoolmates has crossed her mind more than a few times. The tail end of the winter sports season was called off when the COVID-19 pandemic found its way to New York, the entire spring sports season was canceled afterward and the upcoming fall season is currently in limbo.

“I’ve been waiting for my senior season, and to not play, it would be heartbreaking,” Peacock said. “Right now, it’s so frustrating because I literally have no idea what’s going to happen, but I have been mentally preparing to hear that there will be no [fall] season.”

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced two weeks ago that the start date for the fall sports season would be pushed back from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21, and that no regional or state final four games would be contested.

“I kind of had a feeling it was coming,” Peacock said.

“You want to know something good is going to happen, and you keep getting brought down,” said rising senior Caeden LaPietro, a football and lacrosse standout at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. “I was more hopeful until I got that news.”

The Burnt Hills football team was among many teams in Section II that had high hopes for not only area success, but state-level success, as well. Before last year, Burnt Hills had made three consecutive state tournament appearances.

“Obviously, last year didn’t go the way we wanted it to go,” LaPietro said of the 2019 campaign that ended with a Section II semifinal loss to Queensbury. “We were all dreaming of our senior season. We wanted to get back to that state caliber.”

The Johnstown field hockey team came within a goal of a state championship last fall, and has just about every starter returning, led by record-setting goal scorer Taryn Ringer.

“I’m heartbroken for my team,” Johnstown coach Christine Krempa wrote in an email to The Daily Gazette. “I 100 percent believe we would have come home with a state championship this year. We are returning 9 of 11 starters and a very talented group right behind them on the bench.” 

At the time of the NYSPHSAA announcement, the organization also introduced a potential three-season plan that would begin in January, with 10 weeks slotted first for winter sports (Jan. 4-March 13), then fall sports (March 1-May 8) and then for spring sports (April 5-June 12), if sports this fall are called off due to coronavirus concerns.

“Even though I won’t be there, that’s what I’m hoping for,” Peacock said of the possible scenario of the three condensed seasons.”The girls on my team are like my sisters, and I know they would appreciate it.”

The tentative three-season plan would include an overlap from one season to the next, and athletes who played multiple sports in the past might have to choose just one. Playing a full season with one team and then joining another team at some juncture of the next season is something else to be considered.

“That hasn’t really been brought up between us,” LaPietro said of those scenarios. “A lot of football kids are lacrosse kids. Right now, so much is up in the air. There are so many question marks with everything. We’ll have to see what happens.”

LaPietro has committed to play lacrosse at the University at Albany, but enjoys the gridiron game, too.

“I wouldn’t say I am positive towards that yet, but I might lean to football,”  LaPietro said if he had to make a choice between sports. “I’d like to know that I’m playing my last [football] game. I get to play lacrosse for another four years.”

Peacock had dreamed of a fourth consecutive state title bid by her soccer team before those dreams were dashed. During her freshman year, Stillwater came up short in a state final and then won two straight New York crowns.

“We wanted a shot,” Peacock said. “If the [fall] season doesn’t get canceled, at least we can finish on a positive note.”

Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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