Derry Area’s return to the football field has hit a major snag.

The Trojans’ program, already off this week because of a rash of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases within the school district, was forced to postpone its Oct. 23 conference road game at Burrell after additional positive tests were announced Friday by superintendent Eric Curry.

Derry Area previously canceled this week’s home game against East Allegheny after five district employees tested positive for COVID-19, leading to the closing of all district buildings. The school closure — and plans for virtual-only learning — was extended to Oct. 23 following Friday’s announcement of more positive cases.

Athletic director Brett Miller said all of Derry Area athletic practices and competitions are canceled through Sunday, Oct. 25.

Miller added that the Burrell football game will be rescheduled for Oct. 30 if both teams don’t qualify for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs. In an event where the Bucs make the postseason, Miller said the district will weigh other scheduling options.

“We were searching for a Week 8 opponent prior to the closure,” Miller said. “If Burrell advances, we will try to find someone else.”

Before Miller confirmed next week’s football postponement to the Bulletin, Burrell coach Shawn Liotta sent out a Twitter post seeking an opponent for Oct. 23. He said the Bucs prefer to play another PIAA Class 3A school or lower.

Before the positive cases halted play, the Trojans (2-2, 2-3) were gearing up for a playoff push. Derry Area topped Valley, 19-6, on the road last week to move into a tie with Burrell for fourth place in the Allegheny Seven Conference.

“The team was just starting to come into its own,” first-year Derry Area coach Vince Skillings said earlier this week. “The guys were starting to buy into what we wanted to do.”

After the start of the season had been pushed back two weeks because of the pandemic, the WPIAL announced plans that first- and second-place finishers in each of the three Class 3A conferences plus two wild-card teams, based on the Gardner Point System, would qualify for the playoffs. Virus-related scheduling issues, along with rising positive case numbers in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties this month, has only muddied the waters since then.

Derry Area’s current situation mirrors other high school athletic programs in Westmoreland County. Apollo-Ridge and Southmoreland also had football games called off this week because of coronavirus concerns, while Hempfield Area’s final two games against Pittsburgh Central Catholic and North Allegheny were also canceled.

Earlier this season, the Greater Latrobe football team was indirectly affected by the coronavirus in consecutive games. The Wildcats’ game against South Fayette was switched to a home game against Upper St. Clair after the Lions had to play Peters Township, a conference opponent, affected by COVID-19 earlier in the season.

The following week, Greater Latrobe’s conference game against Gateway was called off because students at Gateway High School tested positive for the virus.

Last week, Ligonier Valley’s opponent — Serra Catholic — shut down its football program for 14 days, and quarantined 40-plus student-athletes and staff because of coronavirus.

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