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Muncy, Bloomsburg cancel football game amid Internet rumors

September 12, 2011 - Mitch Rupert
Muncy athletics director Curt Chilson was shocked to come into his office Monday morning and find 56 voicemails from angry fans of the Bloomsburg football team.

All the messages essentially said the same thing, accusing he and head coach Jay Drumheller of trying to earn a cheap win by forcing the Panthers to play football Monday so soon after being devastated by flood waters last week. What was confusing to both Chilson and Drumheller was that they never forced Bloomsburg to play their game that had been postponed from last Friday.

Rumors on the internet, though, were accusing the two delivering an edict to Bloomsburg of either play or forfeit. The game was finally canceled Monday morning as both schools are dealing with flood clean-up in their communities.

“This is just football. There are more important things than football,” Chilson said. “This will get both schools back on a normal schedule”

Chilson said Bloomsburg was “insistent” that the game be played.

“I’m not sure why,” he said. “I think they finally came to the realization that it’s just football.”

Sones said his team wanted to play the game, and even practiced through the weekend. Drumheller and Muncy also received permission to practice this weekend in anticipation of playing the game Monday night.

Drumheller witnessed first-hand the devastation the residents are going through Sunday when he helped folks displaced by the flooding at a community dinner event in Danville. Many of the residents Drumheller dealt with were from Bloomsburg. He’s also a former all-state player at Southern Columbia High School who is fourth on the school’s all-time rushing list. So Drumheller has been around the area enough to know the devastation a flood can have.

“From a Bloomsburg football perspective, we felt it would be a good thing to play, but we’re not making judgement on Muncy because they also had the flood come through their community,” Sones said. “We practiced (Sunday) and felt comfortable the kids could respond and be ready to play (Monday).”

“I think our players wanted to play,” Drumheller said. “Yeah, we’d like to play but a lot of people don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Even my wife said to me that people don’t have houses, or underwear or running water and you’re worried about playing a high school football game? I think if you ask around people would agree. Just because we’re engrossed in football doesn’t mean everyone else is.”

The original rumor that caused the bulk of the phone calls to Chilson and Muncy superintendent Dr. Portia Brandt was that Bloomsburg wanted the game moved to Wednesday and that Muncy officials shot down the idea and told the Panthers to either play on Monday or forfeit the game. Following that rumor came the backlash of phone calls and message board posts accusing Muncy of acting in an unsportsmanlike manner and even going as far as to call Drumheller “classless.”

One posting at Pennlive.com said parents from Bloomsburg emailed Drumheller pleading with him to move the game only to receive responses with “some rather rude messages saying how this wasn’t as big of a deal as we were making it out to be.”

Drumheller said he never received an email from a Bloomsburg parent.

“If anything had to go, we were going to declare (Bloomsburg) the victor, 2-0. We would forfeit to them,” Drumheller said. “Both communities are hurting. Families have nothing.

“Somewhere along the line someone offered Wednesday (as the day to play). But when was the last time you heard of a Wednesday game? If we did that then we’d be adjusting for three weeks because we’d play Bloomsburg on Wednesday, move the Wyalusing game to Monday, and then be on a short week against Lewisburg. What that does is we’d have to play a third of our season in nine days. In baseball you can do that. If you’re not playing a collision sport, you can do that. In football, that’s not a good move.”

Both Chilson and Drumheller, who is in his first year as the Indians’ head coach, said the field would have been playable. Muncy High School and the football field sit far enough away from Muncy Creek that it wasn’t as affected by the flood waters as Bloomsburg’s football field was by the raging Susquehanna River.

The additional rain that fell Saturday and Sunday night probably would have made for a wet track, and Chilson said the grass as the field hadn’t been cut in more than a week, but the field would have been playable had the teams decided to play.

"Could we have been ready to rock and roll?" Drumheller asked. "Sure. But even as far back as the weekend my staff and I figured with the facilities being the way they are and the flooding that we probably weren't going to play."

Bloomsburg is not as fortunate with its field situation. Flood waters – as it does every time a flood occurs in Bloomsburg – covered the recently renovated Panther Stadium. Water was up to the crossbar of the goalposts and nearly up to the bottom of the pressbox, covering all by three or four rows of the home side bleachers.

A fire even broke out in the maintenance building next to the field. The building also contains the locker room for the football team and the concession stand. The fire was contained to the maintenance side of the building according to Sones. But the football team did lose some of its equipment due to the floodwaters.

“We were able to save enough gear that we were at least able to practice,” Sones said Monday afternoon. “But we lost quite a bit of equipment. We lost our away game gear. But we had some response from other businesses and people at other schools. We’re fortunate that we’re not down to bear bones, but we don’t have the luxury of having extra equipment.”

The Panthers won’t be playing any of their remaining home games at Panther Stadium this year, according to Sones. Even as the rain was falling and the river began to rise, athletics director Bill Perkins was on the phone making arrangements for all the Bloomsburg fall teams to have practice and game facilities.

The Panthers games in most of their fall sports will be played at Bloomsburg University. BU has a facility on upper campus now just for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse. The Panthers will play football games at Bloomsburg University’s Redman Stadium which was equipped with lights for the 2008 football season. Bloomsburg High School played a number of its home games at Bloomsburg University following flooding in 2006.

“But what we’re dealing with is an inconvenience of moving practice. We still have a place to practice which we’re grateful for,” said Sones, who along with his team went into the community over the weekend to help families begin to clean up their homes after the water receded. “But with what some of the other people in town are facing, this is just an inconvenience and it’s way down on the list of important things.”

 
 

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