Man coach Harvey Arms brings his team to George Washington for a preseason scrimmage for the eighth straight year.
Traditions sometimes have a peculiar way of starting.
Take Man's recent ritual of beginning its preseason scrimmages by trekking to South Hills for a meeting with George Washington.
The Hillbillies line up against the Patriots for the eighth straight season when they meet at 10 a.m. today at GW's Steve Edwards Sr. Field. It's one of seven scrimmages set for today involving Kanawha Valley teams (see list, Page 2B).
To some, having a Class A team work out with a Class AAA opponent - and a top-notch AAA at that - could seem a less-than-ideal fit, but it's a matchup born out of necessity that has somehow endured.
Back in 2005, when the Mountain State Athletic Conference debuted its Grid-o-rama setup, having all the league schools compete in final scrimmages at Laidley Field, GW coach Steve Edwards Jr. found himself without a scrimmage for the first weekend, and had no prospects for one as preseason workouts loomed.
Then he had a chance meeting with Man coach Harvey Arms.
"They used to have a coaches clinic at Capital High School,'' Edwards said, "and I ran into Coach Arms there. I said, 'Coach, I heard you don't have a scrimmage. How would you like to come up to our place?'
"That's the first time I ever met the man. We sat down and ate brown beans and cornbread and that's what came out of it - a scrimmage game.''
It's hard to argue that the arrangement hasn't worked out for both sides.
Since they started scrimmaging to begin the season in 2005, GW has twice posted 10-0 regular seasons, twice earned the No. 1 Class AAA playoff seed and twice advanced to the Super Six finals in Wheeling. Man, meanwhile, played Madonna in the 2009 Class A finals and has also made several playoff appearances.
"We know they're a triple-A program and we're a single-A program,'' Arms said. "But one thing we want to see is how well do our players compete. We want to know: Will they fight? Will they battle?
"[George Washington's] a good team, and they'll let you know how you compete because they have a very good program, a great team every year. We feel that if we go over there and compete and play hard against them, then as the season goes along, we can make a big improvement.''
Of course, sometimes there are good matches when the teams square off, and sometimes there are mismatches. In last year's scrimmage, GW tailback Ryan Switzer touched the ball nine times and scored eight touchdowns.
Arms said he likes the challenge of having his defense try to track down the elusive Switzer, the Kennedy Award winner who's committed to play at North Carolina.
"If we just go over there and play and compete against him,'' Arms said, "well, we know on our regular-season schedule, we're not going to play against anybody I think that has the speed of Switzer.
"Their fullback and middle linebacker [Dustin Crouser] is tough, too, and they have other good kids. They always have real good skill players and are always well coached and sound in technique with the things they do. One thing [we get] from playing them is that they will show us the things we need to work on. After we scrimmage over there, we always know more than we did about our team, and we put more emphasis on it in our practices.''
Edwards said his team gets a lot, too, out of scrimmaging the Hillbillies.
"Coach Arms does a good job with those kids,'' he said. "He has his kids well prepared and ready to play. He likes coming up here. He gets a good look out of us, and we get a good look out of him. It's a good deal for both teams - it really is. I'm just fortunate to be able to have a good relationship with Coach Arms and Man High School.
"He said as long as we keep feeding them hot dogs after the game, he'll keep coming.''
Other scrimmages set for today include Capital hosting Herbert Hoover at 7 p.m. at Laidley Field, Princeton at Riverside at 10 a.m., St. Albans at Hurricane at 10:30 a.m., North Marion at Poca at 11 a.m., Winfield at Buckhannon-Upshur at 11 a.m. and Nitro and Sissonville working out along with host Webster County at noon.
Buffalo did not schedule a scrimmage for this weekend. The final first-week scrimmage finds South Charleston traveling to Beckley to play Woodrow Wilson at 6 p.m. Monday.
It's the second straight year SC and the Flying Eagles meet in an off-day scrimmage. Messinger was told Woodrow thought it could get a few more fans to attend on Monday because that's the first day of classes in Raleigh County.
"That's OK,'' Messinger said. "I like [Woodrow coach John H. Lilly] real well and we've worked together, and we don't mind doing that to help them out.
"That gives us an opportunity to go out on Saturday and see some people we're going to be playing against. But that being said, it gives everybody the chance to show up Monday night and look at us. I know I always like to get that early look.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org