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Youngsville administrators, officials detailed in emails what went into forfeiting football games

The Youngsville High School football team did not play two of the games on its schedule last season.

Those games were forfeited. They were the toughest two games on the schedule. District 10 asked for an inquiry into the forfeits.

The Times Observer filed a right-to-know request for electronic documents sent to or from any of the following regarding Youngsville High School varsity football forfeitures between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016: all Youngsville High School football coaches; Youngsville High School Athletic Coordinator John Victor; and Youngsville High School Principal Amy Beers.

The Times Observer received 28 pages of emails, many of which were repeated as forwards, in response to that request on Friday.

The emails seem to show some of the thought behind the forfeiture of the two games — the Friday, Oct. 7, game against Farrell and the Friday, Oct. 14, game against West Middlesex, the timing of the decisions, and some of the concerns the opponents and District 10 had with those decisions.

The emails begin at 8:29 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, when Victor sent an email to Head Coach Andrew Chase.

“This is an email I’m thinking of sending to the following schools, Cochranton, East, Farrell, West Middlesex, with two schools in particular. Let me know what you think.”

The proposed email, with modifications suggested at 10:25 a.m. by Beers, who was not on the recipients of the original, follows.

“I am sending you this email to update and inform you on the status of the Youngsville High School Football Team. Due to injury, illness, and school related confidential issues, we are currently practicing with less than 15 athletes. Of them, many are JV players with a few that are not truly at the JV level. With this being said, it is not our desire to forfeit future games but to develop a solution that ensures the safety of our players while honoring the football schedule. Though I expect a couple players to return by the end of this week in time for this Friday’s game, the future is very uncertain. If circumstances do not improve, my proposal is to concede the varsity game and play a junior varsity game on the scheduled date and time of the varsity game. Please understand that I am just trying to be proactive in case the worse case scenario occurs. I am very much open to any ideas or other solutions. Please don’t hesitate to respond.”

Chase responded to both at 11:05 saying, “I am ok with it as long as everyone understands that my plan is to play every game. We will ultimately have to make a call if numbers do not support it. I do not wish to forfeit any games but also do not want to risk kids that should not be on the field. I truly believe that we will be able to play Friday and next Saturday. Moving past that date it will depend on what kids we get back from injuries. Thank you for the proactive approach.”

The “Friday and next Saturday” games he was referring to were against Cochranton and Erie East.

At 11:06, Victor emailed Chase saying, “That is where I mainly looking at, not this week or next but the following 2 weeks.”

The games for the following two weeks he was referring to were against Farrell and West Middlesex.

“Yeah. I want to play a full schedule. If we were even 95% healthy, there would not be a question. If we get kids back great,” Chase said at 11:07. “If not there is no way we can play either team with 15-17 kids.”

“Add in the fact that some parents might pull their kids,” Victor replied at 11:17.

The edited email explanation of the Youngsville situation was sent by Victor to addresses in the Farrell Area Schools, Erie School District, West Middlesex Area School District, and Crawford Central School District at 11:13 a.m.

Farrell Athletic Director Dan Dragicevic responded at 11:30, saying, “Definitely hate to hear this. You have to do what’s best for your kids. I only ask that you let me know as soon as possible for our game. Our game is actually our Homecoming night. We will have to look at making other arrangements, either trying to see if another school is open or moving the festivities. You will have no issue from us, do what’s best for your kids.”

Victor thanks Dragicevic, who responded by asking if there was anything else Farrell can do to help the situation.

Victor also forwarded the Farrell response to Beers and Chase at 11:36.

“Tell him to plan proactively in that he may want to reach out to other schools or speak to his administrator about moving the date of homecoming,” Beers replied to Victor at 11:43. “You know how labor intensive homecoming is. They should plan ahead. I do not intend (as of today and the current FB situation) to play varsity contest at Farrell Or WMS.”

“I will but I’m going to wait until this afternoon,” Victor said at 11:46.

“Sounds good. Thanks,” Beers said at 11:59. “I know you hate doing this, but safety and working to rebuild is more important than putting unprepared students in a position to get hurt…maybe.”

“I agree,” Victor said at 12:00 p.m.

Then, at 1:31, Victor wrote to Dragicevic, “This really sucks and I hate everything about this situation.”

“After discussing everything with my principal, we have decided that it would be unfair to you and your school to drag this out. It takes a lot of work in putting a homecoming together and we want to provide you with most amount of time possible to make other arrangements. So with deep regret, Youngsville High School will not be competing in our schedule football game on 10/7/16.”

Victor sent the main paragraph of the email again, without the “this really sucks” introduction and added, “Sorry for the inconvenience,” at the end of an email at 12:12 p.m. the next day, Thursday, Sept. 22.

“John, I appreciate the heads up. We actually made other arrangements for Homecoming,” Dragicevic wrote at 12:14 p.m. “Are you cancelling the rest of your varsity schedule?”

Victor thanked him for his understanding in a 12:56 p.m. email and said, “As far as the rest of the schedule, we are going to take it on week by week depending our numbers.”

“As I stated earlier, if you cancel the season, I have no problem,” Dragicevic wrote at 1:58. “I must admit though, if we are the only game that isn’t played that definitely raises concerns. Have you spoken to anyway with District 10?”

“I am positive you won’t be the only one,” Victor replied at 2:50. “We’re going to struggle through tomorrow nights game with about 15 kids. It’s is Cochranton’s homecoming game tomorrow. I have not heard from East but from what I understand they are in the same boat we are. I am playing that one by ear. I let West Middlesex know about my situation but I have not heard from them. I am positive that this game won’t be played either. This leaves YHS with 2 games remaining. FYI, my last three games are at home. Cambridge Springs is next in line and the Sheffield is our last game. I am hoping things work out by the time these games come around. If they don’t, those games will also be cancelled.”

“Trust me when I say this, ‘I do not like doing this, it really sucks.’ At this point I am just trying to salvage what I can. This is why I am not throwing in the towel for the whole season. I am just trying to be proactive and informing teams in advance.”

“I have emailed Rick Gignac, who is Warren County School Districts head athletic director, and he is aware of the situation. I am sure he will be discussing it with D10 members.”

Victor and Dragicevic exchanged pleasantries in three emails between 2:55 and 3:14 p.m.

West Middlesex Athletic Director Jason McElhaney responded to Victor’s status email at 12:38 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, asking about the team’s status and whether or not he should be looking to find another team to play.

Victor replied at 1:09 p.m. with a modified version of the “struggle through” email he sent a day earlier to Dragicevic. “Sorry to say it’s not looking good,” he said. The changes included, “We have cancelled the game vs. Farrell already and I don’t anticipate any players returning in time for your game.”

“I’m not trying to be a jerk, so please do not take it that way, but when can we expect a definite decision on our game?” McElhaney responded at 2:26. “I’m going to try to be proactive and get us a game if possible.”

At 2:37 Victor wrote, “We were going to wait until next week to make an official decision. With that being said, I am all about being proactive and that was the reason for my initial email. At this point I would recommend finding another game for that night. Things are really leaning more towards cancelling than playing. Once again, I’m very sorry for this and I hope your understand.”

At 11:38 a.m. Monday, Sept. 26, Victor wrote to Beers.

“I just got off the phone with the heads of D10. They are not happy. They said they understand the situation but it does not look good. It appears that we are avoiding Farrell. Our conversation is to complicated to email. I’ll come see you.”

“Don’t know how we are avoiding Farrell when we sent out the info to Erie, Farrell, and WMS,” Beers replied at 11:56. “I also called Cochranton; for which they could check on. That’s four schools…not one.”

Victor sent a new status email to Farrell, West Middlesex, Erie School District, and the media, at 1:26 p.m.

“I am sending you this email to update and inform you on the status of the Youngsville High School Football Team. Due to injury, illness, and school related confidential issues, we are currently practicing with less than 15 athletes. We are still planning to follow our football schedule. However, we will be evaluating our situation a week to week basis. If the situation get worse, Youngsville will be forced to cancel games. Updates will be made first thing on Monday, of each week.”

Victor wrote to Chase at 8:24 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27. “If their is any chance of playing a game next week, you need to set up a meeting with the parents. You need to state your case to them on why you think you should play it. Also, you need to find out how many parents will not let their kids play in the game. What is basically comes down to is, convincing the parents why it should be played.”

Victor sent Beers what appears to be a draft proposal of an email to be made public at 2:02 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3. “We have had a number of injuries which has left us with a low number of healthy experienced varsity players. We do not feel it is appropriate to play the game with inexperienced players that we feel are not ready to compete at the varsity level. For this reason we will be forfeiting our game this Friday versus Farrell.”

At 2:45, Dragicevic requested an update.

Victor replied at 2:56 with the letter he had sent to Beers with two modifications. The new message started with, “This is not breaking news.” At the end of the email, the words “our game this Friday” were replaced by “Friday nights game.”

McElhaney asked for a status report in a 9:04 a.m. email on Monday, Oct. 10.

Victor sent an update to the Times Observer and eight other recipients who were not listed individually at 12:08 p.m. The only change from the update sent a week before was to replace “Farrell” with “West Middlesex”.

Youngsville went on to play its remaining two games against Cambridge Springs and Sheffield.