MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A most unusual high school football regular season in West Virginia is scheduled to conclude on November 6. On the final night of the season, the top sixteen teams in each classification will earn spots in the playoffs.
Entering this week, just over forty percent of football-playing schools statewide have been able to play five games in five weeks. Postponements and cancellations have occurred due to the state COVID metrics map or individual schools/county boards of education announcing their own shutdowns.
Kanawha County became the last of West Virginia’s 55 counties to open their respective football seasons Wednesday night.
“You are challenged to think of a real football season when you are missing all of Kanawha County, because you know how important of a role Capital, George Washington and those schools have played through all the years in football,” said SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan on Wednesday’s edition of High School Sportsline. “We are glad they are in the mix now.”
With the playoff fields a month away from taking shape, Dolan says the SSAC will soon set a minimum number of games completed to be playoff-eligible. In a normal year, that number has been eight games. It will be much less in 2020.
“We will set a minimum soon that will be required to make the playoffs. I would imagine it is going to be in the three, four, five range, just to make sure you play enough games. We don’t want anybody to be denied an opportunity if you are good and you are being held out because of what is going on in your county, not necessarily in your school.
“We don’t want anybody to be 1-0 and be the number one seed. We think what is going to be achievable by most schools in the state is where we will settle on our number.”
Football teams have been scheduling games throughout the week just to get games in while the county metrics allow. An additional option is available this fall.
“We have opened up Sunday this year as a practice or game day just to allow people another day of practice because of COVID to be able to squeeze in a game somewhere else. I think they will have plenty of opportunities to hit our minimum number of games.”
When the football postseason begins, right now it is scheduled to open on November 13, Dolan says additional schedule flexibility may be required if positive COVID cases pop up on a team or in a school.
“We will rely on the local health department to make that decision. But if they were to say somebody could not play, I would imagine the tournament would have to go on and that team would be out at that point.
“We might say, instead of playing on Friday because there is an issue, can we go ahead and play on Sunday because it doesn’t put anybody at a great disadvantage?”
In green and yellow counties on the state COVID metrics map, attendance guidelines have been modified to include grandparents of athletes.
“We hope to see those numbers go up, even if it is just going up so the administrators can have some sort of idea on how they are selling the tickets.
“Our number one goal is let’s make sure the games are played. If anybody gets to watch, that is a bonus.”
Winter sports seasons are scheduled to begin later this month. Swimming teams can begin preseason practices on October 26. Dolan says that as of now, any delay to the start of winter seasons likely would not include basketball.
“I would anticipate if we don’t have any delays in the rest of the fall season, there may be a little delay in wrestling and swimming. But I would expect basketball to go on time. I would think the delay in wrestling would be because we are going to limit what you can participate in. The big tournaments are going to go away because we just don’t want to bring all those people together.”