Members of the WPIAL Class A Black Hills Conference have been informed that there is a possibility that Imani Christian won’t be able to field a football team this season.
That left nine schools scrambling to find substitute opponents, just in case Imani decides to fold its football program.
“We’ve tried to preliminarily find an opponent,” said Serra Catholic athletic director Bill Cleary, the president of the Black Hills Conference. “It’s hard. We’re looking into the City League and a lot of us are looking into Ohio and West Virginia, if need be.
“But if Imani fields a team, we’re fine.”
Imani Christian, a private school in the East Hills, is entering its second year of membership in the WPIAL after winning an appeal to the PIAA for admission. The school remains on WPIAL probation, which makes it ineligible for the playoffs. Imani finished 6-3 last season.
Imani Christian Assistant Principal Terri Ayers said a group of administrators plan to meet next week to discuss the situation and make a final decision on the team’s future. That doesn’t solve one problem: Under a new PIAA rule, teams must go through a three-day period of “heat acclimatization” where they practice in helmets and shoulder pads before they can conduct a full-contact practice.
Schools are permitted full-contact practice starting Monday and can scrimmage other schools on Aug. 17.
“I think when practice starts Aug. 12 and they haven’t reported yet and the first scrimmages are going, we probably need to know,” Cleary said.
“They have a lot of work to catch up on if they’re waiting until Aug. 12 to see who’s there.”
If Imani Christian doesn’t field a team, it leaves the possibility that its Black Hills counterparts could have an open date on their schedules.
“That’s our last game. I guess we’d have a week off before the playoffs,” Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “It depends on if you have injuries. If you don’t have injuries, it’s not good. You want to keep the tempo going.”
–By Kevin Gorman