MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For the last 25 years, the Super Six has been synonymous with Wheeling Island Stadium.
The state’s three high school football championship games will again be held in the Northern Panhandle this year, but that could be changing down the line.
Former state Del. Marty Gearheart has helped formalize the Super Six South, a group attempting to bring a rotation to the state high school football championships that would allow Mercer County to host them every other year.
“This part of the state has a long football tradition,” Gearheart said Tuesday morning on MetroNews Talkline. “The teams here for the last 20 or so years have had to travel a good bit to compete in state championship games.
“We feel we can do a great job hosting the tournament and to give the southern half of the state an opportunity to be a little closer to the games. The teams wouldn’t travel quite so much and bear such an expense to go to the northern part of the state.”
The Super Six South’s plan calls for the high school football championships to rotate annually between Wheeling and Mercer County.
The Super Six South sees the potential to play Friday night’s Class AA title game at Hunnicutt Stadium, a turf surface that is the home field for Princeton High School. The Class AAA and Class A title games on Saturday would be held at Mitchell Stadium, a 10,000-seat historic venue that both Bluefield High School and nearby Graham High School (Va.) use for home games.
A formal bid will be made in December and the site of the 2020 Super Six will be known by the end of the calendar year.
“We have every intention of preparing our bid with two stadiums,” Gearheart said. “We know Mitchell Stadium fits the WVSSAC qualifications for parking, attendance and everything you could possibly want.
“But we also want to offer Hunnicutt Stadium. It has less capacity, but great parking and turf. A final decision would be up to the WVSSAC, but we have two outstanding stadiums.”
Gearhart mentioned Hunnicutt Stadium having benefits such as proximity to lodging, restaurants and I-77 as well.
Wheeling Island Stadium has been the site of every Super Six since 1994. Previously, the games were played at the University of Charleston Stadium at Laidley Field each year from 1979-1993, with the exception of Morgantown hosting in 1988 when the stadium underwent repairs.
“We’re pretty aware what Wheeling does to benefit the state and WVSSAC,” Gearheart said. “We’ve tried to look at what they do well and things we can improve upon. I visited last year with an all access pass and was able to talk to folks up there about how they’ve offered the tournament.
“I don’t want to be bashful. The folks in Wheeling have done a tremendous job. I’ve talked to the teams that have gone there and they feel like they’re treated like professionals. It’s a great experience and there’s nothing they have done wrong.”
However, Gearheart believes this year’s Super Six South proposal could be coming at a perfect time.
Construction work will be required in the near future on the I-70 bridges needed to get to Wheeling Island Stadium, which Gearhart said, “will all need to be “rebuilt or refurbished.”
Also, due to its proximity to the Ohio River, Wheeling Island Stadium has dealt with flooding issues in the past. Last year brought about more and during each of the three 2018 title games, mud that had risen from the river was noticeable on jerseys from players on all six participating teams.
“It’s Wheeling Island Stadium — you can’t get to it without a bridge,” Gearheart said. “Traffic is going to be a problem as far as getting people into and out of the stadium. It’s only going to be for the next couple years, but it’s certainly going to be a major problem.
“The other problem is they’ve had flooding there. Last year was a little less than great or sanitary playing conditions. If we were able to get this, we’d give them a little time to clean it up and get past that traffic problem.”