St. Frances Academy, the Baltimore private school which finished the 2017 Super 25 football rankings at No. 4, is facing a very different battle in 2018 after all of its scheduled MIAA opponents pulled out of their matchups citing concerns about team safety and more generic rationales.
As reported by the Baltimore Sun, St. Frances Academy’s football team was forced to withdraw from the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference after all but one of their scheduled opponents pulled out of their games citing either concerns about team safety or “logistical reasons.”
In all, five teams withdrew from St. Frances’ 2018 schedule, with only fellow Baltimore school Gilman still to officially decide whether to maintain a game with St. Frances. The five cancellations officially eliminated the chance for St. Frances to play its traditional Maryland schedule. Instead, St. Frances’ 2019 slate will feature games against schools from Florida, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Connecticut as well as four teams from Canada. Per the Baltimore Sun, most of St. Frances’ currently scheduled games will be played at home.
The forfeits mark the first time that teams have forfeitted MIAA games before the season begins and coincides with the rapid ascent of St. Frances, which is bankrolled in significant part by co-head coach Biff Poggi.
“The schools that are making those decisions, they know their kids best,” Poggi told the Sun. “We have a really good team. We’ve got some really big kids. The kids play hard, play fair and football’s a game where when you bring the safety issue into it. … You can’t fault someone for feeling that their kids might be in a situation where they’re not as prepared to play or they might be injured. … Everyone should know that football is a game that you cannot control those things and if a school really feels that way, then I support them.”
Before the recent series of cancelations, St. Frances was ranked No. 7 in the USA TODAY High School Sports 2018 Way-too-early preseason Super 25 rankings. The Panthers might be even better situated than that if they can run the gamut of their forthcoming schedule.
For now, St. Frances’ decision to adapt to an “independent schedule” avoids further conflict between the schools, though it may not be the last card played in the MIAA debate.