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Once king of local sports, football falters

Published October 21. 2019 01:45PM

Coal region football was once legendary, a near-religion. Its players were tough as nails. Brought up in rugged ethnic communities, they were the epitome of macho, playing through injuries and other adversities.

Nesquehoning, Mount Carmel, Shamokin and Coal Township, for example, fielded teams that were statewide powerhouses.

But that was then, and this is now.

The profound changing gridiron landscape was underscored in the announcement last week that Marian Catholic, with one of the most storied private school football programs in the state in its division, was throwing in the towel and ending its season with two games remaining on the schedule.

With fewer than a dozen and a half healthy recruits, coaches and school officials decided that the prospects of lifelong injuries are magnified with such a small contingent that includes inexperienced players.

This scenario is playing out throughout the nation as parents weigh the costs and benefits of letting their sons play this sport that has been such a positive and negative game-changer for so many.

Palmerton’s football team has dwindled to about 17 game-worthy players, but the Blue Bombers are in better shape than Marian because of having more experienced players.

In fact, Palmerton, despite not being able to field practice teams of 11 members on each side of the ball, has won two of its last three games and is in contention for a District 11 playoff spot in its division.

It was a short four years ago that Marian won a District 11 championship and was runner-up the previous and following years, but football at all levels, especially in high school, has been put under the microscope because of serious football-related injuries that have shown up later in life. This has alarmed parents scrutinizing the risks and rewards of playing the sport.

To continue, said Marian Athletic Director Stan Dakosty to Times News’ Sports Editor Emmett McCall, younger players would have to be put into positions for which they are physically unprepared. “The health and safety of our kids comes first, and we felt we would be unfairly jeopardizing some of these kids by playing our remaining games,” Dakosty said.

It was a painful pill to swallow for the coaching staff led by Pat Morgans and the school administration, which take great pride in their football program. The Colts are just 1-7 this season, with the lone win coming against Shenandoah Valley in their last game.

Dakosty emphasized that football has not been abandoned. The plan is to work diligently to build a strong program to be able to compete effectively in 2020. “We are going to do everything in our power to accomplish that,” he emphasized.

What’s happening here is playing out across the state and around the country. Once upon a time, quality football programs, populated by numerous all-state candidates, were cherished traditions in depressed communities decimated by the decline of King Coal.

Friday nights and Saturday afternoons provided a source of pride and a brief relief from the economic realities of life as legendary gridiron programs showcased their talents.

Many of the major industries that provided jobs for the parents of these football standouts, who played the game with abandon and without regard to personal safety, are now long gone — coal, steel and the railroads.

Other sports, such as soccer, also compete for players’ involvement. Parents are increasingly encouraging their children to play some of the “safer” sports to avoid the risk of a serious injury that might follow them for the rest of their lives.

With the advent of more significant research on football injuries, concern has grown about the sport’s long-term physical consequences. In addition to neurological damage caused by hits to the head, injuries to the mid and lower body can also lead to nagging lifelong ailments.

Improved equipment and rule changes have helped, but some of the scary end-of-life outcomes afflicting well-known pro players have made parents take a hard look at the sport and how it might affect their children’s well-being.

While football is still the most popular sport among high school athletes nationwide, the number of participants has fallen every year during the past decade. Last year, participation was down 3%. There were nearly 31,000 fewer high school football players nationwide in 2018 compared to the previous year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to see where this trend is heading.

By Bruce Frassinelli | tneditor@tnonline.com

Comments
Finally! PA kids are realizing that coal and football are dead ends. They keep you stuck in a Skook rowhouse continuing the cycle of poverty and broken promises.
Personally I'm going to miss the inane chants of "Who's alright,he's alright" while the player is taken to the ambulance on a stretcher.
There's been a war on American Sports, especially football. Why? How comes soccer is being jammed down our throats? Is soccer safer? Is football as dangerous as they'd like us to think? Are children/parents forced to participate?
Soccer has emerged as the favorite sport of the globalists to promote around the world, as their “world” game? Safer? Well let's get off the field and look... look at the fans!
Soccer fans (world) are so rowdy, vicious, drunk that riots are the norm. Stampedes, killings and ill politics surround the sport. Name one other sport in the entire world where this is commonplace. Yup... that'll bring mankind together! Ha Ha Ha
Football is in a slump, the kneeling flakes are one reason, injuries... yeah but mainlly, because of the push of the globalist /socialist leaders, and the desire of ignorant Americans to be "European".
An E.U. spokesman, Alf-Jergen Holmboe, said this about the replacement of American football... it's a three step plan.
“The first two steps were electing a socialist President and instituting national health care,” he said. “Once soccer replaces football, our work will be done.”
Just something to think about.
Give me one reason so little attention has been paid to soccer players and head injuries. Head butts!
No helmets!
Kicks to the head!
Maiming and murders in the stands!
Look folks, it's up to us to decide these things.
Oh yeah... here's what else the EU spokesman said, “Once a country has socialism, national health care, and gay marriage, soccer is usually next.”
Let's take America Back! Hey... pass the wings.
IF schools can no longer get insurance to cover football, then football is over! That day may come sooner rather than later. Small schools used to get 30 kids out minimum, every class even in small schools would have 15 to 20 kids interested. Not anymore. It's just dangerous to play with minimal numbers, the borderline players shouldn't be out there and the better players get the ball much too often. I also feel that youth football is a big contributor to attrition at the high school level. Kids that have not reached puberty have a less than optimal experience in youth ball and decide not to play in HS. Just the way it is, not sure there is a 'fix'.
I've always had the thought that we drove the mule too hard and too early. Too much emphasis on football, got some parents lining junior up for the perks of the sport, rather than the lessons of the sport. Careers promised, free college, now, earn money as a college player, heck, even maybe one day be a kneeler...
Not sure there is a fix to football, but if there is a global initiative to break down American traditions and replace them with New World Order, or Global activities, then we need to put our foot down now. We need to stop these Socialists at the voting machines. We need to look in to the ramifications of this Socialism (COMMUNISM), and truly decide if we want America going that route. Football's just a small loss in the grand scheme of it all.
“I want an officer for a secret and dangerous mission. I want a West Point Football Player.” General George C. Marshall WWII. Football is America. Football made America. Meyers is right about sissys kneeling. Don’t make any sport political. An honored veteran doesn’t want to see a spoiled brat millionaire disrespect him/her and our wonderful America.
Rambo,
How ignorant and foolish of these pro players and their non-sense kneeling. At the very same time NFL is under attack, these lame brains do their kneeling for "social justice", pulling viewers like me away from their product. Actually, I started drawing back after the 2004 "Nipplegate".
The NFL is shooting themselves in the foot, just like Democrats. Sadly, America is too distracted to notice. You are what you eat, and America eats too much Fake News. Heck, I have "brain" damage just pondering this.
Colin Kaepernick, was the last and final straw. He peed in his own cheerios.
Obama was a success, he "fundamentally transformed" America, and there's no bringing it back, as it appears now.
Authentic America wants to honor what we fought for, which includes the freedom of speech and even kneeling at football games. So laughable that Mr. Military Man doesn't even understand what our Country really stands for and only sees it in his rigid narrow way of thinking. The NFL and those rich conservatives would like to push for the American people to see it their way, the only way. Nike understood it quite well. Wouldn't compromise on what America really "is"
Sounds like Levite fell asleep in History Class again.

I have two friends, CG, that “took a knee”, one was a Marine that lost his leg above the knee while on patrol outside of Mosul. The other “took a knee”, in a Hum Vee attack with an RPG while in the Army in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I am sorry, CG, that I do not understand “what our country really stands for and...sees...a rigid narrow way of thinking”, that makes you laugh at me. Perhaps, you should visit a military hospital and share your views with the real heroes. To me, CG, “taking a knee” has a whole different meaning. You see, pampered one, football is just a game. If it were not for warriors that went into harms way to preserve your freedom and protectively isolate you from the reality of war (and reality in general) CG you wouldn’t have any America at all. Honors to Dawger & Tiger. You may have lost a leg in service of this great country, and may never “make” a pro football team, but, you guys will always be my heroes. Thank God for warriors like you guys. I am in awe of your greatness. America is great.
Harrumph...
C-Girl,
The Continental Congress called for a flag on June 14, 1777. The number of stars and stripes represent the 13 original colonies. That Flag was crated by a dear, dear woman named Betsy Ross.
Nike got it all wrong, and they agreed with a flunky football player, in that the Betsy Ross Flag is offensive. What?
Side Note: China is one of Nike’s largest and fastest-growing markets. That Flag offends Chi-Communists and American Communists, of which, you appear to be. Get you tail back to class young lady.
Yeah Bruce, the Math Whiz Mothers who want their kids to have a functioning brain when they leave sports. And just think what is happening now that women have the Vote. Hee Haw!
Yada, Yada,.... Again, Rambo, change the topic and ramble on and on. You still just don't see the bigger picture of what America stands for do you. Typical Trumper.
I guess you just couldn't believe I have a Volunteer Certificate for giving 100 hrs. of my time to a Military Hospital could you. I know all about death and destruction, so give it up.

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