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Valley-Ford City game postponed

| Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009

It wasn't the opening night of high school football that Valley and Ford City had in mind.

The game was postponed Friday night because the game officials didn't show up.

The key Allegheny Conference game was rescheduled for 7:30 tonight at Ford City Athletic Field.

Frank Campbell, New Kensington-Arnold School District's athletic director, is the commissioner of the Allegheny Conference, of which Ford City and Valley are members. As such, he's in charge of scheduling the referees for all conference games.

Campbell said shortly after last night's cancellation that he didn't know why the referees didn't show up.

"I got my officials from the Pittsburgh chapter (of football officials) because this was a big game, and we didn't want to use anybody from this area for the game," Campbell said. "It was human error."

Campbell wouldn't give further explanation or say who made the error, saying that he needed to look into the matter.

Ford City athletic director Dennis Stewart called the game shortly after 8 p.m. He suspected something was awry yesterday afternoon.

"The crew chief usually calls me on Fridays. But I didn't hear from him, and I was in my office at until 2 o'clock," Stewart said.

Efforts by Stewart to contact the scheduled officials were unsuccessful, leading to speculation that the crew was out working another game and weren't answering their phones.

"It's a shame," said Valley coach Troy Hill. "It's tough for both teams. But there's always tomorrow, and that's when we've got to play."

Ford City coach John Bartolovic bolted out of the stadium as soon as the game was called, heading for Kittanning to personally scout the Wildcats and Freeport, two upcoming conference opponents.

Before leaving, Bartolovic recalled a 2005 game where Ford City was at Burrell, and the game was called because of lightning, and the two teams had to resume the following night.

Stewart announced that fans would receive an admittance stub to re-enter the game tonight, but no cash refunds would be made. No provisions were announced for ticket-buyers who can't return to the game tonight and want a refund.

Those without stubs will have to pay the $4 general admission or $2 student ticket charge, according to Stewart

The attendance last night was near the stadium's capacity, but the crowd could swell tonight because fans from rival schools may want to see the Vikings and Sabers in action.

A quality game was expected because Ford City has made the WPIAL playoffs seven of the past eight seasons and Valley for the past four seasons.

The all-time series between the two schools is knotted at 4-4-1.

Officials from both schools briefly considered waiting until 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. and try to persuade the officials from the nearby Kittanning-Freeport game to come over and work the Valley-Ford City game. But that would have the players performing after midnight.

New Kensington-Arnold superintendent George Batterson and Ford City principal Michael Cominos quickly vetoed the idea because many players and band members would be driving home long after the midnight curfew for junior driver's license holders.

The same situation occurred several years ago in PIAA District 10, when General McLane High School of Edinboro and Titusville got officials from another game and started late into the evening, lasting until nearly 1 a.m..

Fans who remained in the stands last night were entertained by both schools' marching bands and majorettes.

For Hill, however, it was just another obstacle to overcome.

"At Valley, we seemed to have had so many roadblocks already; this is just another," he said.

Valley sustained several injuries to players in the preseason, and new, stiffer grade and attendance requirements initiated by the school district has diminished the number of players available to Hill, forcing the sixth-year coach to bring up ninth-graders to fill out the roster.

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