Fall sports will start this week for Jefferson County teams and elsewhere in the Mountain State.
Well, in most other places, anyway.
There were a few counties in West Virginia that fell under “orange” or “red.” Monroe was a “red” county, meaning that there were more than 25 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people and that teams there can’t practice or play games.
Fayette, Kanawha and Logan counties were all under an “orange” alert, meaning that there were between 10 and 24.9 cases per 100,000 people and that teams can practice, but they can’t play.
The bit about Kanawha County was particularly important to Jefferson County, because one of its schools, George Washington High School, was scheduled to play football at Jefferson High on Friday night, but due to the fact that Kanawha County was orange, that game was canceled.
A county over, COVID-19 pulled a number on reigning state football champion Martinsburg when someone associated with the program tested positive last week, forcing the cancelation of its home opener with Musselman.
The situation, however worked out well for Jefferson and Musselman, as the two teams will play each other Friday at Jefferson High School, but that still leaves an opening for both teams the week after.
While the state has its color-coded plan in place, it’s pretty easy to see that it’s not going to be business as usual in West Virginia this season when it comes to high school athletics.
Martinsburg, for starters, was already dealing with an abbreviated schedule of eight games and just saw its season shrink to seven games. Part of its problem is that the Bulldogs were playing several schools in Maryland and Virginia, two states who have opted to play their football in the spring. When those holes came open in Martinsburg’s schedule, no one in West Virginia was really aching to take on a beating.
Luckily, Washington and Jefferson High Schools both still have most of their games.
But, if the first week is any indicator, that could change.
Each week, it’s going to be like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s “Selection Sunday,” except it will occur on Saturday, where players and coaches alike for most sports will await word from the state department of education as to whether they will play the following week.
Some counties are green and will likely stay that way and their teams will avoid the added intrigue.
But others, including the counties where there are high populations, like Kanawha, Monogalia, and even neighboring Berkeley County are going to be on edge most Saturday’s wondering if they’ll be able to play the following week. Jefferson County is also sitting at seven cases per 100,000 people, which means that it wouldn’t be impossible for it to float into “orange” territory.
In some ways, it’s going to have a playoff kind of feel to it. But, that’s about the only positive from this situation, if you could call it that.
The color-coded system makes sense, it’s well thought out. It’s from Harvard of all places.
But now that it’s starting to take effect, the question now is whether the state leaders will stick with it.
The pressure is already being applied.
On Monday, there was a “Let Them Play” rally held at the state capitol organized by those upset that the color-coded COVID-19 map will keep some schools from playing this week.
One coach, Nitro football coach Zach Davis voiced his frustrations on Twitter:
“3.9 miles away, Poca can play, but we can’t play because we are in Kanawha County. This color map was a bad idea from the start.”
Add to the fact that this is an election year for Gov. Jim Justice, and there could be some interesting politics afoot this fall.
Justice normally has a COVID-19 press conference every day at 1 p.m. Things were a little strange Sunday night when it was announced that the conference was moved back to 9:30 a.m. Monday and later moved back to 12:30 p.m.
Later after the “Let them play” rally, Justice offered the option of testing every single athlete for each team from the ‘orange’ counties as a one-time pass, but the schools backed away from the deal because one positive test would have shut down the respective teams for two weeks, which would have meant instead of missing one game, they could have possibly missed three games.
This is likely what we’re going to see for the rest of the school year.
Being that it’s a sport that’s naturally distant, golf has already started prior to this week. Jefferson will play its next match on Sept. 9 as it plays host in the Jefferson Invitational, held at Locust Hill Golf Course.
Washington will play host to Spring Mills in football, and Jefferson plays host to Musselman.
In volleyball, Washington plays at Martinsburg tonight and Jefferson plays host to Spring Mills on Thursday night. In soccer, the Washington boys play host to Martinsburg and the Washington girls will play at Martinsburg, both on Wednesday night. The Jefferson boys will play at Spring Mills on Thursday and the Jefferson girls will play host to Spring Mills on the same night.
In cross country, Jefferson has a home meet at Sam Michaels Park today, followed by the Jefferson Invitational on Saturday, also at Sam Michaels Park. Washington has a meet at Spring Mills today and will also run in the Jefferson Invitational.