Three more WPIAL first-round football games moved
James Swartz Memorial Field in Freeport and Buccaneer Stadium in Lower Burrell will remain soggy, dark and quiet on Friday night while their teams are busy hosting playoff games on the road.
Poor field conditions on natural grass fields at Freeport, Burrell and Monessen — and more rain in the forecast — prompted three more WPIAL first-round playoff games involving local teams to move to alternative sites with artificial turf playing surfaces.
All games remain 7:30 p.m. Friday.
In Class AA, No. 7 seed Freeport (7-2) will now play No. 10 Beaver Falls at Highlands, while No. 8 Burrell (8-1) plays No. 9 Mt. Pleasant (7-2) at Valley.
In Class A, No. 12 Apollo-Ridge (6-3) will face Monessen (8-1) at Charleroi.
“We wanted to have some control of where we played to allow our fan base the opportunity to come and support our team,” Burrell athletic director Brian Ferra said. “We felt that moving the game to Valley allowed us this opportunity.”
Remnants of Hurricane Sandy have given new meaning to home-field advantage in these playoffs, which have yet to begin. On Tuesday, Class A No. 8 Springdale (6-3) moved its home game against No. 9 Brentwood (6-3) to Fox Chapel.
Citing safety concerns and trying to avoid mud bowls, the WPIAL nudged schools hosting games on grass fields to move to nearby turf fields, and became insistent on the new locations due to the pending forecast.
Bottom line: The league likely would have moved games had schools not acted first. That was the impression Freeport and Burrell received while dealing with league officials on Wednesday.
“If they don't find a field, then we're going to have to find one, because we can't have a game played on an unplayable surface,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said.
Freeport athletic director Todd O'Shell thought Swartz Field was suitable, but a WPIAL official evaluated the field Wednesday and figured more rain would change that perception.
“Highlands has been very accommodating in the short amount of time we provided them,” O'Shell said. “They've been great to help us make their field the temporary home of the Yellowjackets for a few days.”
Freeport practiced at Highlands on Wednesday night and will do the same Thursday. Burrell is practicing at Plum.
Bill Beckner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.