As a quarterback, Brayden Long has taken his share of shots in the pocket. But Long was dealt a blow unlike any other on Tuesday evening when informed that the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference was suspending all athletics and competitions through Dec. 31 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a big gut punch, I felt my heart drop at that moment,” said Long of learning his upcoming freshman season at Slippery Rock University was put on ice. “After that initial reaction you turn the page and go on to the next chapter.”
Long’s resilience is as impressive as the talents that allowed him to become Adams County’s all-time leader in passing yardage while at New Oxford. The rocket-armed QB spent the summer preparing to compete for the starting job at Slippery Rock, the reigning PSAC champion.
Instead, he and the rest of the athletes who compete in the fall are left with more uncertainty.
Long processed the grim news delivered by his head coach on a Zoom meeting Tuesday night, and went right back into work mode. He strives to mine silver linings from even the most trying of situations.
“My coaches say to continue to stay positive, especially during these times and turn all the negatives into positives,” he said. “This is a big negative but you have to look at it as a way to grow and get bigger, faster and stronger.”
Long understands that not everyone will be able to cope with the possibility of losing an entire season.
“It will challenge people, for sure,” he said.
Tuesday’s batch of bad news was the second for the Long household, as Brayden’s older sister, Kaelyn, had her senior field hockey campaign at Bucknell put on hold by the Patriot League. Kaelyn was an all-conference defender as a junior.
“Crazy,” said Brayden when asked to sum up 2020. “But I’m trying to adapt to everything and hopefully it will make me a better person.”
The resilience displayed by Long, and all college athletes who have had their fall seasons suspended or cancelled in recent weeks, is admirable. Astounding, really.
It is impossible to quantify their disappointment but the character that emerges through dark times is everlasting. In recent conversations with Long I’m convinced he is ideally suited to conquer this challenge, and any others thrown his way. Quarterback is a position of inherent leadership, and Long is a leader. It may take a little longer than expected due to the unfortunate and unique circumstances stemming from the pandemic, but Slippery Rock will soon learn this as well.
They’ve got a good one.
BOUNTY PLACED ON DIETRICH: Gettysburg’s Danny Dietrich has a bounty on his head — or helmet — tonight at Port Royal Speedway.
Port Royal is hosting the Bob Weikert Memorial on Saturday and Sunday, drawing an elite field of sprint cars, including the All Star Circuit of Champions, for the massive purses. The feature winners will receive a $10,000 paycheck.
However, Saturday’s winner will take home an extra $1,029 for beating Dietrich to the finish line. Should Dietrich win tonight, he would pocket the extra $1,029 on top of the $10K, plus an additional $500 to boot.
Dietrich drove a tribute No. 29 to victory lane in Night 1 of last year’s Weikert Memorial, edging local favorite Logan Wagner. The win was special for the Gettysburg driver who has Weikert’s Livestock Inc. as one of his primary sponsors.
“We been running this place a little more this year and it was all to be able to win that Bull,” said Dietrich in victory lane, referring to the unique trophy given to the winner. “This is a dream come true and man is this just great!”
Both nights of racing will pay drivers $700 to start, as well as a $700 bonus for the hard-charger of the race.
There is an additional $5,000 up for grabs that will go to the overall weekend winner should both nights of racing be completed.
The weekend is designed to honor Weikert, a legendary car owner from Gettysburg whose famous No. 29 was piloted by some of the biggest names in sprint car racing history, including Kenny Weld, Doug Wolfgang, Keith Kauffman, Jac Haudenschild and Bobby Davis Jr. Weikert’s drivers won hundreds of features during his career, including crown jewels such as the Williams Grove National Open, Knoxville Nationals and King’s Royal at Eldora.
Weikert was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1998.
Port Royal isn’t the only track putting big money on the line, as Lincoln Speedway is hosting a $10,000-to win sprint car feature tonight. Lincoln is holding its Outlaw Tune-up in preparation for next Thursday’s show featuring the World of Outlaws.
SOUTH PENN SCRAMBLE: It’s been a memorable summer for the South Penn League, which weeks ago wasn’t certain it would have a season in 2020. The SPL was able to formulate an 18-game regular season for its 10 teams, creating a mad dash leading up to a double-elimination playoff tournament.
Despite limited practice time and some teams working through field availability issues, the product on the field has been good. Quite good, in fact.
On paper, three-time defending league champ Cashtown has the look of a team that could run roughshod through the season. The Pirates have the deepest rotation and an ideal mix of young talent and veteran players.
Chase King, Josh Topper and Anthony Lippy sit atop a Pirate rotation well-suited for an elimination format.
Cashtown (9-3) remains the favorite but there is plenty of capable competition in and around Adams County. Newcomer Hagerstown is off to a 9-2 start and fellow addition Shippensburg sits at 7-3 thanks to some stellar pitching from Todd Weldon and Co.
Littlestown, led by Justin Keith, improved to 9-3 with a win on Thursday. The Dodgers are looking to heat up the lumber after a cool spell and when they do they’ll be a handful.
Biglerville (8-4) has yet to have a breakout offensively but the Black Sox are solid in all phases and will be a player when the postseason arrives. An infusion of young players has paired nicely with a veteran cast led by catcher Pat Armor, who has sizzled at the dish.
New Oxford is no stranger to championship baseball, with a handful of titles in recent years. The Twins are sorting out their rotation but have the pedigree to be contenders.
Count me among those grateful to have South Penn baseball alive and well.