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COVID-19 claims West Virginia high school football championship games

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, right, and West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan address a news conference Thursday, March 12, 2020, at the state Capitol in Charleston, W.Va. Justice announced measures to address the new coronavirus, including the suspension of the ongoing girls state basketball tournament. (AP Photo/John Raby)

The Super Six, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission’s trio of state football championship games, will not happen this season, a victim of the West Virginia Department of Education’s COVID-19 school opening map. Yet three prep football teams in West Virginia will claim state titles.

The SSAC announced Saturday night that South Charleston will be recognized as the 2020 Class AAA champion, Fairmont Senior will be recognized as the Class AA champion and St. Marys will be recognized as the Class A champion. Those three teams were the ones left able to play in next weekend’s championship games due to their respective counties’ color designation on the WVDE map.

“We have been consistent in following the rules as per the WVDE Saturday map for football as well as for all other fall sport championship events,” SSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan said in the commission’s Saturday night release. “We held an emergency board meeting this evening with our Board of Directors to discuss the situation and the vote was unanimous to stay consistent in our decision making.”

The SSAC had followed the WVDE map in that teams in counties that were “orange” or “red” on the map would not be able to compete against other teams. Also, a team that had to wait for a team in “orange” or “red” could not be eliminated from the playoffs because it had to wait. The SSAC also was not going to play Super Six games on Sunday, as there was no Sunday option for other fall state championships. So any team whose county went “orange” or “red” this Saturday would be knocked out of the postseason.

That scenario came into play in two state semifinals.

In Class AA, Oak Glen was scheduled to play Robert C. Byrd on Sunday. That game was moved to Sunday because Hancock County was “orange” on last Saturday’s school map. Hancock improved to “gold” on this Saturday’s map, but Harrison County fell to “orange.” Oak Glen’s county was the reason the game had to be postponed, and RCB’s county designation knocked that school out of the playoffs, so both teams were eliminated.

In Class AAA, Cabell Midland and Bridgeport were scheduled to play Sunday because Cabell County was “orange” last week. Harrison moved to “orange” Saturday, so, even though Cabell moved to “gold,” Bridgeport and Cabell Midland both were eliminated.

On the other side of the Class AAA bracket, Berkeley County’s “red” designation eliminated Musselman from its scheduled Sunday game at South Charleston, and the Black Eagles, as the last team standing, won the state title.

St. Marys was scheduled to play Ritchie County next week for the Class A championship, but Ritchie County was “red” on Saturday’s map and eliminated.

COVID-19 concerns didn’t just play havoc on the football playoff brackets. The Super Six site was going to be moved for one year, from its scheduled home at Wheeling Island Stadium to Laidley Field at University of Charleston Stadium in Charleston. Ohio County was “orange” on Saturday’s WVDE map, while Kanawha County was “yellow,” which allows schools to open and extracurricular activities to happen.

“It is an unfortunate situation for everyone, but we knew going into the playoffs that this could be a possibility,” Dolan said. “We were hoping that the map would allow the championship games to be held, but it did not turn out that way. We congratulate the winners. It has been an emotional journey for everyone involved. We wish there could have been championship games, but the map did not allow the games to be played. We look forward to the day that all of our student athletes will have the opportunity to return to both school and athletics in a safe environment.”

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