The final spot in the American Legion Region 7 tournament will be on the line tonight in Bedford, even if it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
The Cambria League winner could be crowned tonight as undefeated Claysburg faces once-beaten Bedford at 5:30 p.m. on the Hurricanes’ field. If Claysburg wins, it will represent the league in the Region 7 tournament set to be played at Somerset, which also will play in the tournament, starting on Saturday.
Should Claysburg lose tonight, the same two teams will square off again on Tuesday in a winner-take-all game.
The Cambria League originally thought that it would have another team in the regionals, a total of three teams, based on Sectional Director Mike Hogan telling the organization that scenario prior to the start of the local playoffs.
On Thursday, a day into the local playoffs, Regional Director Rob Murphy notified the Cambria League that he had reversed Hogan’s decision and was going to allow just host Somerset and the winner to be in the playoffs.
Cambria League President Randy Choby of Patton has written letters of protest to both Murphy and State Director Skip Carnes.
At issue are two conflicting legion rules about how many teams can represent a league at regionals.
“The reason this happened with the gentleman who was the region director last year, Jim McKee, passed away in February,” Choby said. “He stated that Cambria deserved to have three teams in the regional.”
Choby said the changing of the original decision in mid-playoffs was the biggest problem.
“Patton set up its strategy and pitching to make the regional rather than win the league,” Choby said. “Obviously, when you find out after the playoffs have started, it raises your frustration level because they changed the rules in midstream.”
Speaking of backtracking: After laying the groundwork with districts 6 and 7 in the spring, Leechburg High School will not be joining the Heritage Conference after all.
Leechburg, which has been a member of the WPIAL since 1919, was granted a release by the WPIAL and membership in the Heritage, pending District 6 and PIAA approval.
The issue was tabled at the most recent PIAA meeting, though, and the Leechburg school board voted last week to keep the school’s sports in the WPIAL.
The Heritage Conference has had nine members – Blairsville, Homer-Center, Ligonier Valley, Marion Center, Northern Cambria, Penns Manor, Purchase Line, Saltsburg and United – since Laurel Valley closed in a merger with Ligonier Valley in the summer of 2010. All the teams are in Class A for football except for the Rams.
While the search goes on, many of the Heritage squads will continue to fill their schedules with WestPAC teams.
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat.