P-O school board member requests executive session with football coach, raises concerns about injuries

For the CDTSeptember 27, 2013 

State College's Patrick Irwin cuts upfield against Martinsburg, W. Va. on Friday, September 13, 2013.

CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE — CDT photo Buy Photo

Editor’s note: This story was updated Friday with information from the parent of a football player concerning circumstances surrounding the handling of his injury.

Gridiron woes are bleeding over into the school board at Philipsburg-Osceola.

Board member Jim Verbeck wants to have an executive session with football coach Jeff Vroman.

Verbeck’s concern? Injuries.

At the last football game at Tyrone, the Mounties lost on the scoreboard and also lost one of their best players, defensive end Curtis Matsko.

“What I’m concerned with is we’re getting a lot of kids hurt,” Verbeck said.

He claimed that Matsko, who ended up in the hospital, was not taken by the ambulance waiting at the field. Instead, he said, the Tyrone trainer told the family to take him to the hospital themselves.

On Friday, Kelly Matsko, the player’s mother, contacted the Centre Daily Times to defend the work of the trainers.

“It was our decision to take our son to the hospital,” she said. “We consulted with a trainer, and the trainer we consulted with was from Philipsburg, not Tyrone.”

Kelly Matsko said her son has a rib cartilage injury but is cleared to play in Friday’s game against Chestnut Ridge.

“I have no complaints whatsoever with what happened last week,” she said.

Board member Todd Jeffries said that the situation is being blown out of proportion because of the Mounties’ win-loss record. After being winless last season, the team is 1-3 so far this year.

“I can tell you why this is coming up. It’s because they’re losing,” said Jeffries, who added that any problems with the response to Matsko’s injuries Friday are being misplaced. “That falls on Tyrone.”

Jeffries also said that the number of injuries is being exaggerated. Verbeck claimed that several players were sidelined at the game, but Jeffries said it was two and that it was a reasonable number for a football team.

Overall, however, Verbeck wants to know about numbers, too.

“Do we have a viable football team to put on the field?” Verbeck asked.

P-O began preseason drills with 38 players.

When contacted after practice Thursday, Vroman countered that his Mounties are experiencing the same ups and downs of any football team. While he admits that most of the teams they play are a little bigger, he says his 32 players are not the fewest he has coached in his 23 years on the field. In fact, one of his best teams, the 2007 squad, was one of the smallest, with just 28 boys in uniform.

“As far as injuries, Curtis Matsko is fine. He will be playing this week,” Vroman said. “He caught a cleat on a tackle. There’s not much you can do about that.”

Vroman said his coaches take injuries seriously and do their best to prevent them. The defensive players use knee braces as a precautionary measure. There are special hard-capped chin pads. They take extraordinary steps to prevent concussions, and Vroman said there have been none so far in practice or play this year. The team follows a chocolate milk regimen after practices because of research that shows the beverage beats out energy drinks to help with post-exercise recovery, Vroman said.

Verbeck said he knew of other schools that had forfeited games and wondered whether that was something for P-O to consider.

Somerset County’s Rockwood High School dropped its program just before the start of the 2013 season, citing low participation numbers and safety concerns.

Cambria County’s Ferndale High School this week announced that it will forfeit Saturday’s game against Meyersdale because of declining numbers. Ferndale’s game last weekend against Shade was halted at halftime because Ferndale was down to 11 players after numerous injuries, including several concussions, according to reports from The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown.

P-O Superintendent Gregg Paladina declined to arrange the requested executive session. Instead, he said he will meet with Vroman and Athletic Director Lee Fisher to discuss Verbeck’s concerns and report back to the board.

“If you’re not satisfied with those results, then we can have a meeting,” he said.

After the 2012 football season, members of the football team attended a school board meeting to beg for their coach’s job, taking responsibility for the winless record themselves.

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