The concept of “Friday Night Lights” in reference to high school football will take another beating in the upcoming state playoff semifinals.
There will be no playoff games Friday night. Two semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, and three are set for Sunday — pending clearance on the dreaded state COVID-19 map release late Saturday afternoon.
If they’re played at all — and there’s no certainty of that — both Class AAA semifinals will be played Sunday.
No. 2 South Charleston (6-0) is scheduled to host No. 3 Musselman (7-1) at 5 p.m. Sunday, while No. 1 Cabell Midland (5-0) is scheduled to host No. 5 Bridgeport at 3 p.m. Sunday.
But as has been the case throughout this pandemic-ravaged prep football postseason, the road to the championship game could be altered when the state Department of Education releases its weekly COVID-19 map Saturday.
Cabell County was listed as orange on the latest map release, so Cabell Midland won’t be able to play its semifinal against Bridgeport unless Cabell moves into gold (or better) on Saturday’s updated map.
The situation is even more dire for Musselman (Berkeley County), which is listed in red on the latest map and would need to improve by two levels (past orange to gold) to be eligible for Sunday’s scheduled game against South Charleston.
The Black Eagles got a free pass into the quarterfinals when they received a no-contest advancement after first-round opponent Ripley (Jackson County) was ruled ineligible by that week’s map. SC defeated Princeton 57-18 Friday night in the quarterfinals.
Musselman scored a 64-25 win over University in the first round, then had a no-contest decision when Spring Valley (Wayne County) was ruled ineligible for the quarterfinals.
Cabell Midland has advanced this far without playing a single down in the postseason. Its first two playoff opponents — John Marshall (Marshall County) in the first round and Spring Mills (Berkeley County) in the quarterfinals — were ruled ineligible by the WVDE map and the Knights moved on via no-contest decisions.
Bridgeport (Harrison County) is in gold on the latest map, making the Indians eligible to play Cabell Midland Sunday. Bridgeport defeated Washington 55-7 in the first round and advanced in the quarterfinals via no contest when four-time defending Class AAA state champion Martinsburg (Berkeley County) was ineligible due to the map.
The Class AAA championship is scheduled for noon on Dec. 5 at Wheeling Island Stadium, but that could also change.
Last week, Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan said contingency plans are being considered in case Wheeling, located in Ohio County, is not suitable to host games due to the state’s COVID-19 map. Ohio County was in orange status in the latest WVDE map. A decision on the location of Super Six games is expected following Saturday’s map release. If Ohio County remains orange, the games will be moved.
The final four in Class AA is also set after the quarterfinals were completed with No. 8 seed Robert C. Byrd (8-2) defeating No. 16 Elkins 33-6 Sunday afternoon. No. 5 Oak Glen (8-1) will host RCB at 5 p.m. Sunday in one semifinal, while No. 2 Bluefield (7-1) will host No. 6 Fairmont Senior (9-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday in the other.
The Oak Glen-RCB game was scheduled for Sunday because Hancock County, Oak Glen’s base, was in orange in Saturday’s map. Oak Glen needs to improve to gold for the game with RCB to be played.
There will be just one Class A semifinal played because two quarterfinal opponents — No. 11 Tolsia and No. 14 East Hardy — were both ruled ineligible by the COVID-19 state map. That gave No. 7 seed Ritchie County (a 38-29 winner over No. 2 Greenbrier West Saturday in the quarterfinals) a free pass into the small-school championship game.
The other side of the Class A bracket was completed with quarterfinal games Sunday — No. 8 Pendleton County (7-2) defeated No. 16 Tygarts Valley 41-17 and No. 4 St. Marys (8-1) ousted No. 5 Midland Trail 52-49. St. Marys will host Pendleton County at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the lone Class A semifinal for the right to face Ritchie County in the championship game.
In all, only 21 of the scheduled 36 playoff matchups to date have been completed. Fourteen were ruled as no-contests this postseason, and the one remaining game (East Hardy-Tolsia quarterfinal in Class A) left both teams on the sidelines.