HUNTINGTON — Ask a local high school athletic director how things are going and his answer might change from one hour to the next.
COVID-19 has caused high schools to tentatively schedule every game, knowing that not only can the schedule change week to week but hour to hour.
“Nothing compares to what’s going on right now,” said Huntington High veteran AD Bruce Senior. “We really don’t know how to schedule week to week until the map comes out on Saturday.”
“The map” is West Virginia’s COVID chart. Teams in red can’t play. Teams in orange can practice but can’t play. Teams in gold can play teams from other counties in gold. Teams in yellow and green are free to play.
All that is nullified if a positive test or two shows up on game day, throwing the schedule into disarray, as it did Friday when Lincoln County’s football game at Point Pleasant was canceled seven hours before kickoff. A similar situation took place a week earlier when Gallia Academy’s game at Coal Grove was called off mere hours before the Blue Devils were to board their bus.
Seven hours, through, appears to be an eternity compared to what Cabell Midland experienced. The Knights were scrimmaging at Fairmont Senior at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 when officials from Parkersburg South called and asked if the Knights could play that night.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cabell Midland AD Chris Parsons said.
Parsons was left to sign a contract and the game was on. The Knights and Patriots kicked off at 7:30 p.m. in Parkersburg and the Knights won 69-34, the score showing that neither team had prepared for the other.
Huntington High played a hastily scheduled home game with Wheeling Park on Sept. 18 after the Highlanders learned they couldn’t play George Washington because Kanawha County was red.
Rescheduling football games is a monumental challenge, but far from the lone difficulty ADs face. At least football plays only once a week. Volleyball, cross country, golf and soccer play multiple times.
“You can have a lot to do in a short amount of time,” Senior said. “You have to have ticket takers at the gates and because of restricted attendance the little bit of money we have is squeezed even more. The bookkeeper is overwhelmed.”
Senior said if not for Huntington High’s staff, he couldn’t do his job nearly as effectively.
“It’s unbelievable,” Senior said. “I have an amazing support group that helps me. Our coaches have been tremendous. I’m blessed with great people.”
Spring Valley AD Tim George expressed similar sentiments. He had to schedule a replacement game 360 miles away in Martinsburg last week. The Timberwolves won 22-20.
“We drove by schools that wouldn’t play us,” George said.
Scheduling for Class AAA schools is particularly difficult. With just 32 schools in that division, finding an opponent is a chore, especially since six of those programs are in Kanawha and Putnam counties, which have been in the no-play color field.
“Schools don;t want to play you,” Senior said, referring to smaller schools. “Cabell Midland and Spring Valley are struggling with that. Some people want you to play two football games a week, but we don’t want to do that. The kids need time to rest and recover.”
Once the COVID-19 situation is over, area athletic directors might need some rest and recovery time of their own.