WHEELING - Yes, Wheeling certainly puts on a happy face when the Super Six rolls into town.
When welcoming the teams to town Thursday during the Super Six Kickoff Dinner at the Capitol Theatre, Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart told the Huntington contingent, "we do welcome you with open arms, even though you knocked off our Wheeling Park Patriots."
Yes, Huntington advanced to the Super Six with a 34-21 victory against the Patriots, getting a trip to Wheeling from its triumph in Huntington.
WVSSAC Executive Secretary Gary Ray speaks at the Super Six Kickoff Dinner Thursday night at the Capitol Theatre Ballroom.
So Huntington was represented, as were the other schools who made to The Friendly City - local favorite Madonna and Greenbrier West in Class A, Wayne and Bridgeport in Class AA and Huntington's Class AAA opponent Martinsburg, which is trying for a Class AAA record fourth straight big schools championship.
While the schools had different messages, ranging from records and academics, one theme was consistent through the evening. The kids.
While they will all be important over the course of the weekend, a few stood out from the messages delivered by representatives of the participating schools.
Huntington Principal Gregory Webb told of how a family with a terminally ill preschool child simply wanted an autographed ball.
Coach Billy Seals, a Tennessee native, did the family one better.
Not only did the coach sign a ball, he and members of the team went and visiting the family, bringing toys in tow.
"It's really something when you see a 6-foot-5 athlete, or a 6-2 athlete, playing in the floor (with the child) with the toys they brought, pushing the cars around," Webb said with emotion in his speech.
Wayne Principal Sarah Stapleton told the story of how coach Tom Harmon took an autistic child on the team - Wayne will be trying to break a record for consecutive victory (37) when it plays Bridgeport tonight - and how excited the boy was when he got into a game against Poca.
She said she ran into the boy in the hallway this week and told him he must be excited about the game.
He responded that the best thing was when the game ended he would still have his 79 best friends. "Isn't that's what it's all about?" he asked Stapleton.
There were light-hearted moments as well.
Martinsburg AD Trent Sherman talked about his coach, Dave Walker, who is going for an unprecedented fourth state title Saturday at Noon vs. Huntington.
He said he went to church Sunday and the pastor was talking about the humility of King David, and likened it to his own coaches humility.
"Now, I don't want people thinking that I'm anointing coach Walker for sainthood," Sherman said.
Walker is trying to break the record he shares with his college (Glenville) coach, Frank Vincent, who won three straight titles at Charleston (1968-70).
Bridgeport Athletics Director Matt DeMotto took to the podium, turned around and took a "selfie" of himself.
"Sorry, I told my wife I would get a picture," he said. "I don't want her to think this is the only time we are going to do this, though."
Bridgeport is the only team in state history to win a title in every classification.
Greenbrier West's Jerry Robertson, whose wife sent him to talk on behalf of the school, said he is often asked by people what it's like to be the husband of his boss.
"It's simple," he said. "From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. she is the boss.. From 3 p.m. and the rest of the day, she is still the boss. There's not much difference."
Matt Goddard, who also spoke on behalf of West, said this year's group of seniors is a school-record best 43-6.
Madonna Principal Steve Grasser noted his team's ability last year, in its darkest moment, losing the Class A championship 43-42 in overtime, to realize what a big accomplishment it was for Wahama, and how important it was to that community.
He also noted how the Weirton Community had turned out en masse, including Weir High folks and a few from rival Steubenville Catholic, to clear the snow from Jimmy Carey Stadium last week prior to its semifinal victory against Williamstown. Madonna is now 16-0 in two years at the Weirton High School stadium.
Madonna will get another crack at that title Saturday night, facing Greenbrier West at 7 p.m.