Starting Tuesday afternoon, Poca football coach Seth Ramsey was burning up the phone lines. He wasn’t alone.
Ramsey and coaches throughout the region weren’t about to let a chance slip through their fingers. Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials announced Tuesday a new color on the state’s color-coded COVID-19 map, gold in between yellow and orange. The metrics of that new category gave five counties — Putnam, Fayette, Boone, Logan and Mingo — new life for their fall prep sports seasons.
Under the gold designation, students can return to in-person learning. They also can compete against other schools within their respective counties or against schools from other gold counties.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Ramsey had contacted several schools looking for a game this weekend.
“Anybody that’s gold, we’ve been trying to get a hold of,” Ramsey said.
It was a sudden change for those counties going from orange, where teams couldn’t play games and were allowed only to run conditioning drills, to gold, where teams can actually return to the field.
Yet the coaches made sure they weren’t blindsided. Some have been talking to other teams for weeks about possible games if they were ever allowed to play again.
When Justice floated the concept of a gold designation during his Monday video conference, the talks heated up even more, as the counties that thought they could move into gold started planning for that possibility.
Still, it’s a more involved project than just getting two teams together, Buffalo football coach Brian Batman said. So much more goes into staging a game than just the game itself.
“It’s not as easy as, ‘Hey, you wanna play? Sure, let’s play,’” he said. “Somebody’s got to get buses. Somebody’s got to get officials.”
Batman said he’s been fortunate to have an administration that is totally supportive of its sports teams returning to their respective fields. It has been a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy streak of stops and starts, and having to face disappointed players to break the news that, no, they must sit for another week.
And getting a game this week is not yet guaranteed. Putnam County Schools announced that its superintendent, John Hudson, would meet with medical experts and announce by Wednesday afternoon whether Putnam would return to in-person learning at the end of this week. If Putnam does decide to return to in-person class, Poca will host Hurricane at 7 p.m. Friday.
Fayette County is planning to return Thursday and Friday, Logan County Schools will hold an emergency board meeting Thursday to discuss the matter and Boone County has decided to wait and see what this Saturday’s map looks like before returning to school.
“There could be this thing of maybe we play Friday, maybe we don’t,” Batman said. “If we get to play Friday, it could be the last game we play for a while. Who knows?”
Both Batman and Ramsey understand that the COVID-19 metrics don’t look promising for Putnam to remain in gold after this week. So those two, along with every other coach in the gold counties, will make the most of the opportunities they have.
“There are some teams in some counties right now that have no options,” Ramsey said. “So we’re grateful and thankful that hopefully we get the chance to play. Regardless of where it is or who it is, we’re going to take full advantage of that.”
Ramsey added that he hopes the surrounding communities will help them get more opportunities.
“You can only control what you can control, but we as a county have to do a better job,” he said. “We’ve got to do a better job of wearing masks, social distancing, of washing our hands and making good decisions. We’ve got to do a better job collectively as people.”