The photo on page 19 of the Oct. 17 edition of the TIMES NEWS tells the entire story.
If a typical picture is worth a thousand words, then looking at that one is like reading "War and Peace."
In case you don't remember, Friday, Oct. 16 was a rainy day. There were eight football games scheduled to be played that night in the TIMES NEWS coverage area and seven of them went on as scheduled. The only postponement was the Minersville at Marian game.
As rainy football nights go, I have covered numerous games through the years where the weather was a lot worse than that night. That night I was in Lehighton covering the Indians and Stroudsburg. The rain was annoying, but certainly not torrential. That seemed to be the general consensus among writers we had out at games that night.
We had photographers at five of the seven games involving area schools.
The pictures that ran on pages 17 and 18 of the TIMES NEWS the following day were very similar. The fields at Northern Lehigh, Panther Valley, Lehighton and Palmerton looked wet and mud was visible on some areas of the players' uniforms.
But the picture of the Pocono Mountain West at Jim Thorpe game that ran on page 19 and on several other photos submitted to the paper by photographer Doug Edwards that night was nothing like those other games. It looked like a mud wrestling match was taking place instead of a football game. Players were covered head-to-toe in mud, making uniform numbers for several players in the photo impossible to make out.
The following week, Jim Thorpe was scheduled to host Schuylkill Haven in its final home game of the season. But the Olympian field was still in such bad shape that midway through the week, the Jim Thorpe administration contacted Schuylkill Haven about switching the game to their turf field. Haven agreed. So last Friday night, in weather conditions far worse than the previous week, the Olympian seniors played their final high school home game on a field almost an hour bus ride away.
I covered that football game and despite the enormous amount of rain, neither team had footing problems on Haven's turf field. I can only imagine how bad the conditions would have been if the game would have been played in Jim Thorpe.
"It was very unfortunate that the last home game for our seniors had to be moved," said Jim Thorpe coach Mark Rosenberger. "But it was definitely the right decision.
"Our field has been pretty wet the entire season because of the amount of rain we have received in the fall and because of drainage problems at the site where our field is located. The condition of the field had been a problem at a few games this season, but the Pocono Mountain West game was probably the muddiest field I've had a team play on in all my years coaching."
Although Rosenberger said this year has probably seen the worst conditions in the field's nine years in existence, Jim Thorpe Athletic Director Dustin McAndrew said the administration has been aware of a problem for some time.
"Unfortunately, this isn't a new problem," said McAndrew. "This has been ongoing. But this year, with the amount of rain we have received and the addition of a girls soccer team that also uses the field, the problem has really been magnified. It has really taken its toll on the field."
McAndrew said he had already met with the school board and talked about finding a solution two weeks prior to the mud bowl against Pocono Mountain West.
"It was getting to the point where we were concerned about the safety conditions that the athletes were facing on the field," said McAndrew. "Several of our opponents and even some officials that had worked our games, had commented negatively about the field."
McAndrew said the Jim Thorpe School Board is already taking action on the problem.
"We're bringing a couple of people in during the next week who work for companies that deal with irrigation and drainage problems. They'll be checking the soil and giving us some options about what we can do.
"Hopefully they'll have some answers for us and we'll be able to come up with a solution that works for everyone."
Although both Rosenberger and McAndrew said getting a turf field would be the ideal solution, they realize that might not be feasible.
"I'm happy the board is already looking into ways to fix the problem," said Rosenberger. "I would love to have a turf field, but I realize that solution might be a little more expensive than some others. The board will have to weigh the long term benefits and savings of turf over the short-term expenses.
"But ultimately, all I want is a playable surface so that the types of problems we've encountered this year won't happen in the future."