Area esports teams claim championships at St. Francis event

Shawn Curtis, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·2 min read

May 1—LORETTO — The first champions of The Esport Company's inaugural high school league were crowned on Saturday at in the esports room at the JFK Student Center on the campus of St. Francis University.

The league which saw 12 schools compete in the spring season on either "Rocket League," an arcade-style soccer game where gamers control vehicles to strike a ball that is much larger than the cars; and "Overwatch," a team-based multiplayer game with map-specific objectives.

Live action was shown — with commentary — in the auditorium at the JFK Student Center with teams from Bishop Carroll Catholic, Central Cambria, Forest Hills, Penn Cambria, Penn Trafford and Somerset competing in three separate best-of-seven championship series.

Bishop Carroll claimed the D1 Rocket League championship over Penn Trafford in five games, while Central Cambria swept Forest Hills in three games to take home the championship in the league's Overwatch division.

Somerset defeated Penn Cambria 4-3 in their best-of-seven series to claim the D2 Rocket League title.

The just-completed spring league has given The Esport Company's founder and owner Seth Mason optimism for growing the league and hosting related events.

"Even in a pandemic where we space everybody out and we follow all of the protocols," Mason said, "this shows you the possibility of having an esports event in this area.

"That's what we want to do not only at St. Francis, but in Johnstown."

Mason is hoping for two high school leagues in the next academic year — with separate leagues in the fall and spring with 16 participating schools.

St. Francis, which launched its esports program in 2019, hosted the matches in a state-of-the-art center with the necessary gaming PCs. Bringing the event to the Loretto campus is another show of commitment by the university to esports, Flash coach Luke Trotz said.

"When we were investigating (the addition of) esports, our administration was more than supportive," Trotz said. "They're fully invested in this opportunity for students in order to bring great experiences to St. Francis."

Between matches, the gaming machines and all surfaces were sanitized to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Overseeing that duty was Hayden Herc, a St. Francis graduate assistant and head of esports operations. He was also in charge of keeping matches running smoothly in the event of gaming-related difficulties such as lag or a complete freeze.

"This is our first in-person event that we've been able to do," Herc said. "We've gotten schools from across the area, and I think we're getting a different kind of student within the university involved with other people and activities. So it's been awesome just to see these groups come together and interact, and be able to host something like this."