Elkers hoping to begin workouts next week

Bob Parana - Staff Writer

Over the past four high school football seasons, the Ridgway Elkers have dominated District 9. The team won a second straight district Class AA championship last season after winning Class A titles in 2016 and 2017. Head coach Mark Heindl hopes to see his players participating in voluntary workouts as early as next week. The school’s COVID-19 health and safety plan required by the PIAA and the state will be presented to the district’s school board next Tuesday, July 14.
Heindl said the football program is still accepting signups for the 2020 Varsity/JV team (grades 10-12) and the 7th-8th grade and 9th-grade teams. Those interested can contact him at 814-594-5583.
“We’re chomping at the bit to get started. Our signups actually started during the last part of when school was let out. We want to have a last call before we get started next week. We’re going to be pushing 50 for the Varsity and close to 40 at the Junior High level. Our numbers are pretty good. It’s a testament to the kids and this program. We’re just hoping to take another step,” he said noting that if the safety plan is approved the voluntary workouts could begin as early as Wednesday, July 15.
The Elkers mentor praised the efforts of RASD Superintendent Heather A. McMahon-Vargas and those “working diligently” on the safety plan.
Heindl feels his players have been doing the best they can to keep active during the off-time.“There is a lot of uncertainty out there but I’ll tell you our kids never lost their work ethic during this process. A lot of them have taken it upon themselves to do their own routine and to find a place to lift. It’s not like we’re just starting for the first time fresh next week. I think the kids took the responsibility to stay in shape and we can pick up where we left off,” he said.
The safety plans must include maintaining safe social distancing and directions on mask-usage among other steps. Heindl talked about adhering to the measures. “I’m going to steal a phrase from our superintendent – 'personal responsibility'. These kids have to understand if they’re (school district) doing everything to try to get us back on the field we have to respect that and do everything they ask of us. We as coaches also have to take that responsibility as well to follow through with the mandates that allow us to be there.” While some schools have had their plans approved and others have had to redevelop theirs due to the ever-changing pandemic situation, Heindl, entering his 13th season as head coach, is not concerned about teams that may have gotten an earlier start with voluntary workouts.“We tell our kids all the time to not worry about what other schools are doing and to just focus on what Ridgway and Johnsonburg are doing. That’s really the only thing you can control. I know some schools have started stuff and there are schools that are in the same boat as us. We just want a chance to get started and work towards that opening week with St. Marys (Aug. 28),” he said.
In other Elkers news, Heindl said the program’s annual golf outing is tentatively set to be held Saturday, July 25 at Laurel Mill. Further details on the event will be forthcoming.
Several Ridgway seniors from last season’s squad are expected to be playing for the former Allegany Mountain League (AML) in the 5th Annual Frank Varischetti All-Star football game. The organizers moved the game to Friday, Aug. 7 in Brockway due to he pandemic. The game which pits the former AML vs. the former Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference all-stars was to be played Friday, June 26. The Big 30 Charities Classic All-Star game was to be played Saturday, Aug. 1 but was canceled June 27. the organizers of the Varischetti have not made an official announcement on the status of the Brockway contest.

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