COVID-19 claims West Virginia high school football championship games
West Virginia SSAC moves games to Charleston for 2020
For the first time since 1993, the West Virginia Super Six Football Championships will not be held in Wheeling.
The three state championship football games on Friday were set to be moved to Charleston’s Laidley Field at University of Charleston Stadium, which hosted the games prior to their move to Wheeling Island Stadium. Secondary School Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan made the announcement Friday morning because Ohio County is still “firmly entrenched” in “orange” on the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources COVID-19 alert map. Prep sports teams whose counties are in “orange” are not allowed to compete.
However, on Saturday evening, the championship games were called off, as the latest West Virginia Department of Education COVID-19 map tossed what already was a tumultuous 2020 football season into chaos.
Several counties with teams still playing turned orange on the map, which meant schools would be unable to play this coming weekend in the finals. That left only three teams eligible to play next weekend.
As a result, the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission convened a board meeting late Saturday evening and unanimously ruled that South Charleston (Class AAA), Fairmont Senior (Class AA) and St. Marys (Class A) be crowned champions. Bernie Dolan, SSAC executive director, made the announcement.
Oak Glen, located in Hancock County, became eligible to play when the county was listed as gold on Saturday’s map. However, their opponent, Robert C. Byrd High School in Harrison County, saw that county turn orange, meaning Sunday’s game couldn’t be played.
Oak Glen could not advance via forfeit as the game was set for Sunday based on the fact Oak Glen was orange on last week’s map.
On Friday, upon learning Wheeling would not host the games, Super Six committee members Dwaine Rodgers and Greg Stewart expressed disappointment.
“I thought our group did an excellent job of pulling together and doing what we could do,” Stewart said. “We did all of the things we needed to do to be ready to host the event, but it still hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Rodgers — who is the Director of Athletics at Wheeling Park — has known that the map forcing the SSAC’s hand was a strong possibility.
“It’s been a process and we knew being orange or red (on the map) was going to dictate to us,” Rodgers said. “Greg and I offered some thoughts and opinions to Bernie, but honestly, I am not sure I could have came up with anything different and I have to credit our leadership at the SSAC and (Gov. Jim Justice) for even allowing the kids even the chance to play.”
Along with the sports impact, the effects also will be felt in Ohio County and the entire Ohio Valley in terms of the economy. Through prior economic impact studies, it has been estimated that the Super Six brings in upwards of $1 million to the area when restaurant traffic, hotel stays and shopping are considered.
Stewart expressed most of his remorse for the student-athletes who aren’t able to play because their county is the wrong color. That’s been going on throughout the tournament and cost three area teams — Wheeling Park, Wheeling Central and John Marshall — the ability to play in the postseason already.
“Several of the local teams looked strong and as if they could be playing for several weeks in the playoffs,” Stewart said. “I feel bad for the kids and especially the seniors.”
Both Rodgers and Stewart already have started thinking about the 2021 event and want to make it as special of an event as possible. That motivation doesn’t stem from not having the event this year. It’s because they want to do all they can for the kids of the competing schools.
“We always want to try to do it better (than we did the year before),” Rodgers said. “We all have that mindset that we want to do the best we can with it each year.”
One of the things that the Ohio County group does for the kids is put together gift bags for each participant. Stewart and Rodgers plan to either deliver or send those bags to Charleston.
“We want to get it right for the kids,” Stewart said.