What coach Mark Luther wanted more than anything for his Chambersburg football team was one last game.
One more game to continue the team’s improvement. One more game for the seniors, most of whom will never play another football game. One more game to give the underclassmen a chance to play.
But that won’t be happening.
A scheduled game for this Saturday at Manheim Central, which was the second opponent of the week for the Trojans, was called off Thursday morning by the Barons, and any chance of finding a new opponent was quashed later in the day when the CASHS administration shut down the school’s activities.
“I was sick when I heard,” Luther said. “I really didn’t want the season to end, because I wanted one more game for the kids. I wanted closure for the team.”
The crazy final week was, perhaps, a fitting ending to a bizarre season.
Chambersburg had to call off its only scrimmage, with Hershey, when a Trojan player tested positive. The Harrisburg game, scheduled for Oct. 31, was ditched when the Cougars qualified for the District 3 playoffs, although it’s likely it would have been canceled anyway because Harrisburg had players test positive and had to forfeit the district game.
The Trojans would have lost the State College contest on Nov. 6 had the Little Lions won District 6, but Altoona defeated them. So last Friday’s game, a wild 42-35, two-overtime defeat against State College, will now stand as the last game.
Chambersburg had gotten an agreement with East Pennsboro to play this Friday at Trojan Stadium, but when that school came down with COVID issues, they dropped out, causing CASHS athletic director Jeremy Flores to search for another opponent.
“East Pennsboro canceled on Monday, so we worked with Manheim Central and finalized those plans on Wednesday morning,” Flores said. “Less than 24 hours later (Thursday morning), I got a call from their AD and he said they had to cancel.”
Manheim Central became one of many schools to cancel activities and return to virtual learning.
Luther said, “When I talked to Jeremy this morning, there was still a possibility we could find somebody else to play, because we knew there would be schools out there without a game. But then the (CASHS) administration met at noon and said we were shutting down, too. So I had to send out a message to the team about it and said how disappointed I was that it was ending this way.”
The football staff had prepared for East Pennsboro over the weekend, then began looking at Manheim Central on Wednesday, and had a full practice that afternoon to get ready.
“A part of me is relieved — we won’t have to worry about those things and all the changes anymore,” Luther said. “It’s become emotionally draining for the coaches and kids. But I am so sick for the seniors. There was no last practice for them to talk to their teammates, and there were no hugs after the last game.
“I know most people think of it as just a game. But those kids have been a part of our program for four years, and we’ve been vested with those kids for that long. I remember when they were on the freshmen team and we had our last game against Carlisle and played with 17 kids. This was the first group that started when I did, so there’s a stronger bond.”
Chambersburg opened the season with a 62-10 loss to Central Dauphin, but got steadily better, beating CD East and Cumberland Valley, then losing in OT to State College in its last three games to finish 2-4.
Luther said, “I told the kids this was maybe the one team I’ve had that I was proudest of, because they got better every game. That’s what a coach likes to see.”
Now he and his staff will turn their attention to the offseason, and, of course, they won’t know exactly how to proceed until things settle down with the pandemic and rules are put in place.
“We felt that skill kids were our strength this year, but we lose a lot of them,” Luther said. “We should have more linemen back next year, and we have sophomores who will be ready to step in. And our freshman team was 5-1, and there are some good skill kids in that group. So the offseason will be very important for those kids. We’ll just have to figure out how we can do it.”