PETERSBURG - Geographically speaking, the hills and hollers of West Virginia have caused the Mountain State's residents to live in relative isolation from the outside world. Before technology put the world at our fingertips, when disaster struck, a West Virginian better be prepared to fend for themselves, at least, that is, until the help of neighbors arrived.
By Chapin Jewell
PETERSBURG - Geographically speaking, the hills and hollers of West Virginia have caused the Mountain State’s residents to live in relative isolation from the outside world. Before technology put the world at our fingertips, when disaster struck, a West Virginian better be prepared to fend for themselves, at least, that is, until the help of neighbors arrived.
That help from neighbors is the one thing West Virginians can count on, because in this state, we’ve got each other’s backs. Be it flood or fire, in this case the latter, neighbors in West Virginia waste no time in rallying to each other’s side in times of distress.
This Mountaineer tradition of togetherness, of neighbor helping neighbor, was on full display this week in response to an unfortunate fire that resulted in the total loss of Petersburg High School’s football field house.
The long and short of it is that, according to reports, a paint can being loaded into a spraying machine to line the field became compromised, spilling paint onto the ground next to the field house. The gas furnace used to heat the building ignited the paint, which caused other cans of paint to ignite and explode, and in the blink of eye, fire destroyed the field house, with coaches and player present.
Most likely, insurance will cover most if not all of the loss in the long term, but that does nothing to help the Viking football players in the here and now, especially with a game to play this Friday night. Equipment was lost and so too was the use of the field, a field originally scheduled to host Petersburg on Senior Night against East Hardy.
Enter the good guys.
As word spread of the unfortunate fire, neighboring coaches, schools and communities immediately jumped into action, offering whatever help was needed to outfit Petersburg with much needed equipment and even a place to play their game.
Coach Sean Biser of the Keyser Golden Tornado immediately sprang into action, offering up equipment so the Petersburg boys wouldn’t miss a beat. According to Biser, “We were at practice and got phone calls from Coach Denver Riggleman. Denver was on our staff the past four years and he’s family to us. He told us the situation and we just let them know whatever they needed was theirs to use.”
“They sent us a list that included uniforms, shoulder pads, helmets, footballs, water bottles, mouth pieces, etc. Our coaches stayed after practice and got it all together and they came down and picked it up last night so they could be ready for practice today. We support them 100 percent and hope they have a great Senior Night,” Biser explained.
Keyser’s donation of much needed equipment and supplies solved one problem for Petersburg, but another issue loomed large - where to play the game. East Hardy, Petersburg’s opponent, offered to host the game at East Hardy and graciously offered to wear visiting white uniforms and make other concessions, whatever was needed to help.
In the end, the decision was made to play the game at Moorefield, thanks to the generosity of Petersburg’s closest neighbors, the Moorefield Yellow Jackets. According to Moorefield coach Matt Altobello, a Keyser native, “We were nearing the end of practice when one of our coaches let me know what was happening in Petersburg. Shortly after, Brent Nelson, director of facilities at Petersburg, called me and asked if it was a possibility of playing the game at Moorefield. I told him I just needed to make a quick phone call and check on it, and whatever we could do to help we would do.
“I got the go-ahead permission from our principal, Patrick McGregor, and from our superintendent, Sheena Vanmeter. So I called Brent back and let him know that if they wanted to play here they could. We also offered any type of supplies that they would need for the game. I was glad to find out that Keyser had their backs with helping with helmets and shoulder pads,” Altobello explained.
According to Altobello, “I told our boys what was going on as practice ended and a majority of them offered cleats and their shoulder pads if they needed them for the game too. When something like this happens, it is awesome to see the help from surrounding programs offering help and assistance. I know East Hardy offered a lot of the same things too, which is great. We, as a program, are happy and willing to help with whatever they would need for sure.”
Frankfort coach Kevin Whiteman was also quick to offer assistance to Petersburg, with anything the Vikings might need. As most of the holes seem to be filled, the Falcons will be offering whatever is needed, and most assuredly, a cash donation to fill the gaps.
According to Whiteman, “I feel horrible for them. That’s a great group of people down there, we have always had a great relationship with them. I spoke with Coach Redman last night, reaching out to ask him if they needed anything, but they had already spoken to Keyser and they gave them enough equipment.
“It’s a blessing that there were no injuries and they can still play their game tomorrow night. I thank God no one got trapped in there behind the fire. The building and equipment can be replaced. They are tough country people and they will bounce back quickly,” Whiteman explained.
According to assistant coach Denver Riggleman on the Petersburg High School Vikings Football page on Facebook, “We have received so much support from locals and people and coaches from across the state. I’ve always said, if there is ever a disaster or someone in need, the people of this state are always there to help. We the coaches and players than you for your concerns and prayers. May God bless you all.”
With the players and coaches present at the time, it’s a story that most certainly could have ended in tragedy. This story, however, is already playing out more like triumph and tragedy. With the assistance of neighbors, Petersburg’s football program has already risen from the ashes, literally. Thanks to the assistance of the Vikings’ neighboring schools and friends, the show will go on for these deserving seniors and their teammates.
Neighbors helping neighbors, it’s what West Virginians do.