The 2020 sports scene in Lancaster County was unlike any in history. There was a state wrestling champion crowned, numerous district champs in various sports, and two grads from one local high school played for the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Steelers.
But the big story in 2020 was the games that were not played. Unfortunately, the top sports story here is the same as the biggest story in the world this year — the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here's a look at Lancaster County's top sports stories of 2020:
How COVID-19 effected events on the gridiron, court, diamond, field and in the pool
In March, the coronavirus halted the PIAA swimming championships and the state basketball playoffs. In Class 3A swimming, the first day's medals were based on prelim times and finals and the second day's medals were based on prelim times also. The Class 2A meet was canceled altogether.
Meanwhile, the boys and girls hoops competitions were ended at the quarterfinal stage.
The virus wiped out the entire scholastic spring sports schedule, and this past summer the Lancaster Barnstormers and the rest of the Atlantic League canceled the 2020 baseball season.
High school teams started the fall season late and played abbreviated schedules.
During the fall season, COVID-19 outbreaks forced numerous postponements and cancellations. Warwick's football team had to forfeit the District Three Class 5A title game, and Manheim Township's boys soccer team forfeited their district 4A championship contest.
The local colleges (Lancaster Bible College, Millersville University, Franklin & Marshall College and Elizabethtown) cut short spring sports and canceled fall sports.
F&M has decided it will not compete in the current winter sports season, while MU, LBC and E-town are still deciding the fate of their winter sports programs.
In the most recent development, the prep sports winter season is on hold until at least Jan. 4 as part of statewide restrictions enacted by Gov. Tom Wolf.
And when L-L League teams return, participants will be required to wear masks during all the winter sports competitions, except for swimming.
Other notable sports stories of 2020
Manheim Central's Will Betancourt won the PIAA Class 3A wrestling championship at 120 pounds. Betancourt took the title with a 4-2 decision over Seneca Valley’s Dylan Chappell.
Betancourt is the Barons' ninth state wrestling champ and the 24th from Lancaster County or the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
After eight months of progress following a stem cell transplant, Ryan Smith got bad news Dec. 2. The leukemia he is battling has returned.
Smith, who was an all-star basketball player at Lampeter-Strasburg, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia 16 months ago, while preparing for his sophomore season at East Stroudsburg.
Smith was the PSAC Freshman of the Year his first year at East Stroud, and he was looking to get back on the court this season. Instead, he will once again get treatment at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Here's the story from John Walk about Smith's optimistic view of his new recovery plan, the award the 21-year-old was to receive, and the support he has received from the L-S, Lancaster County and East Stroudsburg University communities:
Pioneers to Steelers
Matt Feiler and Matthew Wright, both Lampeter-Strasburg grads, have played for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.
Feiler started at left guard in the first 13 games for the Steelers this season before going on injured reserve after hurting his pectoral muscle in a loss at Buffalo.
He started all of last season and 10 games in 2018 at right tackle before moving to guard this year.
Feiler, who played his college ball for Bloomsburg, will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
Wright was signed to Pittsburgh's practice squad Nov. 30, and he played his first NFL game Dec. 7. He was 4 for 4 in his extra-point attempts in the Steelers' 28-24 win over the Colts on Dec. 27.
Filling in for the injured Chris Boswell against Washington, Wright was successful on his only field goal attempt, a 37-yarder, and added two extra points.
Wright kicked in college for the University of Central Florida, where he was a member of the Knights' 13-0 team in 2017. He is UCF's all-time leading scorer with 375 points, and his 55 field goals are also a school best.
2 hanging up their whistles
John Manion led Lampeter-Strasburg's football team for 23 years. Manion, the most successful coach in the history of the Pioneers' gridiron program, has decided to step down to spend more time with his family and deal with health issues.
Here is Jeff Reinhart's profile of the longtime coach:
Lebanon Catholic closing ends Patti Hower's storied coaching career
Patti Hower coached Lebanon Catholic's girls basketball team for 42 years. In that time she led her squads to 756 victories, 20 District Three titles and three state championships.
Hower's coaching career at Lebanon Catholic came to an abrupt end after the Diocese of Harrisburg decided to close the school last spring.
Here is Jeff Reinhart's story about the abrupt end to Hower's coaching career:
Both the Lancaster Catholic girls and boys basketball teams won District Three Class 4A championships and advanced to the state quarterfinals in March before the playoffs were stopped by the coronavirus.
The Crusaders' girls team, which also won the L-L League title, finished the season 27-3 overall. Their district title was their third straight and 19th overall.
The Crusaders' boys team, which finished 25-3 overall, ended its season with a four-overtime victory over Belle Vernon. They were scheduled to play three-time defending state champ Imhotep Charter in the quarterfinals, which were canceled.
Linden Hall title
Linden Hall, which won the District Three Class 2A championship for the second year in a row, was set to take on Mahanoy Area in the canceled state quarterfinals. Mercy Ademusayo scored 22 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in the Lions' 60-48 victory over Holy Cross, which sent them to the PIAA quarters for the first time in school history.
The Lions finished the season 22-2 overall.
Even though the Class 2A PIAA swimming championships were not contested, two Lancaster County swimmers were still awarded gold medals. In July, the PIAA decided to honor the top eight swimmers based on seeding times.
That meant gold medals for a Donegal’s Jordynn Park and Cocalico's Zach Sherk, who both had the top qualifying times in their respective 100-yard breaststroke events.
Sherk’s 100 breast time of 56.53 was a Cocalico and District Three record. His 21.08 time in the 50 freestyle is also a school mark. He won L-L League and District Three titles in both of those events.
In addition to Park, whose time won the District Three championship, and Sherk, four other L-L League swimmers took district gold: Donegal's Jake Houck and Ethan Shonk, Northern Lebanon's Brookelle Anderson and Cedar Crest's Logan Smith.
Lampeter-Strasburg beat Elco 20-3 to win the District Three Class 4A championship. It was the Pioneers' second straight district title.
L-S advanced to the state semis before losing to Jersey Shore, 39-35. The Pioneers finished the season 9-1 overall.
Cross country champs
Thomas, who also finished first at the L-L League meet, was second at states.
Hempfield's boys team finished fourth in Class 3A PIAA meet after the Black Knights won L-L League and district titles.
Hempfield's girls volleyball team won the District Three Class 4A volleyball crown, beating Wilson in a four-set final. It was the Black Knights' second straight and 13th overall district title and their ninth in 13 years.
Hempfield reached the state semifinals, where they lost to North Allegheny in five sets.
The Knights finished their season 17-1 overall.
Penn Manor sophomore Catherine Rabatin won the District Three Class 3A singles championship, dropping only two games in the tournament, and Anna Millen of Lancaster Catholic, also a sophomore, took the 2A title.
For Rabatin, it was her second straight district title. She also is a two-time L-L League champ.
Manheim Township won the Class 3A district team title for the fifth straight year and 22nd time overall. And the Blue Streaks duo of Avery Palandjian and Scotty Reynolds successfully defended their district doubles title.
Rabatin and the Palandjian-Reynolds duo earned bronze medals at the state championships.
Township’s players lost in the state semis, while Millen fell in the state quarters.
Those who will be missed
Five notables from the Lancaster County sports world — Mike Ebersole, Dan Quigley, Jim Fiora, Holmes "Homer" Mylin and George Stroup — died this year.
Ebersole was the long-time public address anouncer at Elizabethtown football and basketball games.
Quigley was a Manheim Township athletic trainer for nearly 30 years.
Fiora was a lacrosse official who played a big part in the growth of the sport in Lancaster County.
Mylin, the 1994 winner of the George W. Kirchner Award, was a well-known umpire, official, coach and pro baseball scout.
Stroup coached Garden Spot boys basketball in two separate stints, from 1969-72, and then again from 1997-2001.The Spartans went 79-32 in those last four years under Stroup, a longtime special education teacher at Spot, winning three straight Section Two championships and advancing to a District Three Class 3A final. He also coached the Cocalico girls basketball team for four years, going 70-15 and guiding the Eagles to a district championship in 1996-97.