OLEAN — The games weren’t played until a full 11 weeks after the original date, they ended up being contested across the border from the scheduled state, the site was a first-ever venue for the event and the results were unprecedented.
But, on a sunny but windy Sunday afternoon at Bradner Stadium, the New York/Pennsylvania Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase completed its fourth annual run and overcame some major obstacles to do it.
And, finally, co-founders Kris Linderman and David Talbot caught a break … the weather cooperated, except for a short shower during the girls’ player introductions which was prophetically followed by a rainbow.
The games were originally slated to be played May 17 at Pitt-Bradford’s Kessel Athletic Complex, but the Covid-19 pandemic squashed that plan. Indeed, UPB is still closed to sports which forced the Showcase, whose only other host site had been St. Bonaventure’s Marra Athletic Complex, also unavailable to coronavirus concerns, to look elsewhere.
The answer was Bradner, which offered the bonus of one of the games being played under the lights.
Of course, in order to use the Olean stadium, the Showcase had to meet Covid-19 protocols which included spectators wearing masks and with social distancing and the crowd — each player was allowed to bring two spectators — was switched out between games meaning each one had barely 100 fans.
However, they were live-streamed on Facebook and drew over 5,000 individual views between the two contests.
And, Linderman pointed out, “There were people outside the stadium that heard the game going on and they came over (and sat next to the fence) because they haven’t been to a game in so long and just wanted to watch it.”
THE UNPRECEDENTED results?
For the first time in the four-year history of the event, Pennsylvania’s boys won a game and, in another first, Pennsy swept both contests as the girls prevailed, 3-2.
That 4-1 boys’ final — those five goals were a Showcase record in a half — was largely the product of Bradford High’s seven seniors.
The Owls’ Colton Swanson, a forward who injured his hip early last season and didn’t return until Bradford’s playoff opener, was the MVP with two goals. Teammate Isaiah Pingie, a right wing, scored once and goaltender Evan Schmidt was solid in net.
Swanson and teammate Ryan Miller, a winger, are bound for Lock Haven, Pingie will attend Clarion, Schmidt will play at Pitt-Bradford with midfielder Brennan Grady bound for Slippery Rock and forward Ian Grady going to Penn State-Behrend.
FOR LINDERMAN and Talbot, Sunday ended an extra-long period of preparation and uncertainty.
“I’m glad it’s finally happening,” Linderman said as the games unfolded. “It’s almost 10 months from signups for tryouts until today. Everybody followed the social-distancing rules and the mask rules and I appreciate that they cooperated that way.
“We’ve worked on this pretty much every day for the last 10 months. What are we going to do next week … the work is done?”
To which Talbot added, “I’m excited they had an opportunity to play … not knowing what their high school seasons will be like (exactly half of this year’s 106 players are underclassmen). They deserve that chance … (New York state) is probably going to delay things until September. But kids need social interaction and I’m glad we could have something like this to come to and enjoy with their families.”
He also conceded, “When the cases started rising into May and with Fourth of July coming and graduation parties, I was a little skeptical (the games would be played). But our area only had limited cases at that time.
“When I got here today, I was more worried about the weather than I was anything else … i felt we had done our due diligence.”
“The main key was that on July 6, New York state soccer could be played,” he said. “There are New York state rules, there are Pennsylvania state rules and we adhered to every one of those and I don’t think this game would have happened if we didn’t.”
His one disappointment was that 11 players, who could have played in May, weren’t able to do so Sunday due to conflicts.
“Especially A.J. Edgell from Port Allegany(-Smethport) who had to leave for the military last week ... it would have been nice for him to play,” Linderman admitted. “It would have been ideal if we could have played in May and had everybody available, but we did the best we could. And we still had very strong players on both teams.”
Though he added, “The touches were not what they would be in May or in a regular school year where the kids are then playing travel (soccer). You’d see much crisper passing. But they did pretty well for what they had to deal with and how long they didn’t have the opportunity to play.”
He also made an interesting concession since he’s had sons play for New York in all four Showcases.
“I’m excited that the Pa. boys won,” he admitted.
It was reminiscent of the thoughts of Big 30 All-Star Football Game founder Don Raabe, a Pennsylvanian, who saw New York win the first five games. He later allowed, “It probably was for the better because if Pa. had won the first five, the game might not have survived (for 47 years).”
When the girls game was over Linderman admitted, “Yesterday I was nervous but, at the same time, I was anxious. Now I have a sense of relief, I feel relaxed … like the monkey’s off my back.”
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)