CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Musselman got the short end of the stick and the long end of the trip for its first-round playoff match with Capital.For several reasons, the Applemen, who finished 10th in the final Class AAA playoff ratings, wanted to play their game against the No. 7 Cougars on Saturday afternoon. SSAC rules stipulate that the higher-seeded teams in postseason play get a choice of approved home field and the lower seeds get to pick the date and kickoff time.Musselman veteran coach Denny Price figured a 1:30 p.m. Saturday game at Laidley Field would give his fans a chance to make the five-hour drive from the Eastern Panhandle to attend the game and rule out a late-, late-night return trip home on the bus.Only he didn't figure on the University of Charleston and West Virginia State having a college football game scheduled on the same field at 1 p.m. Saturday. So Price's only choice was Friday night or Saturday night, and he really didn't like either."To be perfectly honest,'' Price said, "we wanted Saturday afternoon, but we didn't have an option. Teams in the Eastern Panhandle have to travel 300 miles, and there's a lot of rationale in allowing our fans to get down there without hardship. It's easier for us to travel and spend one night [before the game] and not have to travel all night to get home. It throws everything sideways for us, really. So there goes our so-called option of the lower seed to pick. We didn't really have anything to pick.
"The reason we didn't think about Saturday night is that you always assume you're going to be successful when you go into a playoff game, and if we did that, it would make for a longer weekend for our kids and make for a shorter work week [getting ready for the quarterfinals], and less time for the kids to come back after a physical game.''Price, in his 40th year of coaching the Applemen, realizes that circumstances sometimes dictate a change in plans. He said he and his team aren't going to dwell on it."The kids work hard all year to get to the playoffs,'' he said, "and we're good enough to do that this year. What inconvenience it may seem like to us, everybody's still excited and has high expectations. The kids will endure, and the trip won't affect us very much. You can't let anything distract you from preparing and getting the kids ready."It's nobody's fault. People share fields with other teams, and you just have to go with it.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.