It’s been a week since the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, under the backdrop of COVID-19 concerns, was forced to cancel all prep football games Aug. 27-29, which was to be the opening weekend of the season, and some Kanawha Valley teams were able to quickly fill the resulting voids in their schedule.
Since teams in West Virginia get 11 weeks to schedule 10 games, everyone had at least one bye week on their original schedule, so the SSAC announcement set off a game of musical chairs in which schools scrambled to find a partner for a 10th game on an available date.
Thus far, six of the Kanawha Valley’s 12 schools have been able to latch on to a new game, while the others circle the remaining chairs. Adding to the confusion are recent decisions by Virginia and the District of Columbia to postpone football this fall, which saw even more games drop off statewide schedules. Four-time defending champion Martinsburg has lost four such games so far, same as Eastern Panhandle neighbor Jefferson.
The luckiest schools so far in all the uncertainty have been Poca, Nitro and Capital. They were all able to keep their original Week 1 opponents because their off weeks matched up.
Nitro now travels to Poca on Oct. 16, keeping that rivalry afloat for a 15th straight season.
“It worked out well for us,’’ said Dots coach Seth Ramsey.
Capital, meanwhile, visits Parkersburg South on Oct. 9, the original bye week for each of those schools.
“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, I guess,’’ said Ron Wilson, Capital’s athletic director.
Buffalo and Greenbrier West, who were supposed to meet Aug. 28 in Charmco, will now square off Sept. 18, thanks to creative scheduling by West and Webster County. Those two teams were set to play on Sept. 18, but both had the following Friday off, so they moved their game to Sept. 25, opening a spot for Buffalo to visit the Cavaliers the week before.
“We just had one game to move,’’ said Buffalo coach Brian Batman, “so I think we were pretty lucky.’’
St. Albans saw its opener at George Washington on Aug. 27 wiped out by the SSAC mandate, which happened after Gov. Jim Justice delayed the reopening of schools statewide until Sept. 8. So the Red Dragons scheduled a game at Greenbrier East on Oct. 23. GW is one of six Kanawha Valley schools currently without a 10th game, joining Herbert Hoover, Hurricane, Riverside, Sissonville and South Charleston.
Schools in the Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference and Class AA Cardinal Conference aren’t able to move around or replace existing games as easily as perhaps some teams because they’re usually locked into eight league games every season. However, due to the precarious state of this year’s schedules, those rules will likely not be enforced.
Winfield managed to make the best of a tough situation by adding a marquee game to its home schedule, getting 2018 Class AA champion Fairmont Senior to come to Putnam County on Oct. 2. That replaces the Generals’ game against county rival Hurricane, which was meant to again kick off the season for a sixth straight year.
“Hurricane was trying to work something out from their other open date [Oct. 16],’’ Winfield coach Craig Snyder said, “but they couldn’t. We were hanging on for them. Point [Pleasant] and Fairmont non-conference is pretty solid, I think, most years. But this will be a one-year deal and we will try to go there [to Fairmont] for a scrimmage as soon as we can to return the favor.’’
In a free-wheeling affair to open last year’s playoffs, Fairmont Senior beat Winfield 63-34. The Generals trailed 42-34 at one point in third quarter.
Some schools are being met by more misfortune than others. Joey Fields, Herbert Hoover’s first-year coach, said earlier this week that he’d contacted eight potential opponents about filling a spot on his schedule, but wasn’t able to strike a deal.
Fields said the Huskies were willing to travel to get in a 10th game, and would even arrange their schedule to play on a Monday following a Friday game, or any day of the week, if necessary, but had no takers. Hoover’s present off week is Oct. 16.
GW, meanwhile, could lose another game from its schedule if Paul Blazer of Ashland, Kentucky is unable to make its Sept. 4 trip to Charleston. Kentucky has not yet decided what it’s going to do with its season.