Keyser, Frankfort busy working on filling slots in football schedules

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Mineral Daily News-Tribune

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

There are a lot of prayers being sent up these days for children, teachers, administrators, doctors, nurses, first responders, the unemployed, essential employees and tons of other folks affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. All needed, all appreciated.  

While you won’t find either Keyser athletic director Shawn White or Frankfort athletic director Jay Hesse asking for them, the reality is, athletic directors are another group of people you should probably add to the prayer list.

While in the overall scheme of things, many will argue that sports should be among the least of our concerns, the reality is that you can’t downplay the important role and positive effect sports has on many of our school-aged children. Trying to make sports work, safely and logistically, is always a challenge.  Trying to make the sports work safely and logistically in the COVID-19 era magnifies the complexity of the work ten-fold.  That work largely falls on the shoulders of athletic directors.

They can move mountains to put a plan into effect on Monday, the work of which can be wiped out entirely by an announcement made on Tuesday. A small snapshot of that came to pass earlier this week.

The announcement on Monday by the MPSSAA regarding the postponement of fall and winter sports in Maryland through the first semester, even if somewhat expected, sent shockwaves throughout the Old Line State for student athletes, parents and fans.

The postponement, however, clearly has somewhat of an effect on people outside of Maryland as well, for example, for those of us here in Mineral County.

For obvious geographical reasons, namely the fact that Mineral County borders Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland, the scholastic sports schedules for Keyser and Frankfort do in fact regularly include Allegany, Fort Hill and Mountain Ridge in Allegany County, and Northern and Southern in Garrett County.

Thankfully for the sanity of the schedule makers, namely Keyser athletic director Shawn White and Frankfort athletic director Jay Hesse, while the absence of Maryland teams for fall and winter sports in the first semester creates a few holes in the schedules for all sports, those holes are not as extensive as one might think.  

An assessment of Keyser and Frankfort’s schedules, however, both in terms of what was scheduled last year and what is scheduled this year, clearly shows that both schools have generally maintained largely West Virginia-dominated schedules to begin with.

Some of the reasoning for this is geographical. Some of the reasoning for this is long-term participation in the Potomac Valley Conference, which consists entirely of West Virginia schools. Some of the reasoning for this centers around the voting for sectional and regional seeding come tournament time.  Some of the reasoning involves getting a taste of the competition come playoff time.

So, what is the reaction of Mineral County’s athletic directors to the Maryland news? Both White and Hesse had somewhat been preparing for Maryland’s announcement, as with everything this year, they knew it was a possibility. They were prepared, and now the plans made during that preparation are being put into action.

“While not knowing what the fall is going to really look like in West Virginia, at this point we’re trying to fill the schedule with local West Virginia teams. I think that, with the circumstances we’re facing, pressuring teams to play a typical full schedule is an unnecessary strain,”  White explained.

“If we do have athletics this fall, we know that it will look and feel very different than it has in the past.  Our students, staff and fans will have to follow state guidelines to allow the student athlete as safe an experience as possible.”

So the plan at Keyser is clearly to fill as many spots left void by Maryland opponents with local West Virginia opponents, when possible. Most holes will likely be filled, some may not be.

At Frankfort, the plan is the same - fill the slots with as many local West Virginia opponents as possible.  As Hesse put it, “Our kids will certainly get to know other local West Virginia kids very well.”

“We’ve been fortunate that we could fill our football dates.  It also worked out for us that the WVSSAC relaxed the requirement of having to play six teams in your class or above.  Otherwise, we would never had been able to schedule AAA Spring Mills and Jefferson in place of the Maryland schools,” he explained.

According to Hesse, “For most of our sports, especially non-revenue sports, being able to play Maryland schools really helps us out. For many sports, we’ll end up playing a lot of teams home and away, and may end up doing that multiple times. So, we could possibly end up playing Keyser four times.”

The percentage of Maryland public school opponents for Keyser and Frankfort, while significant, by no means dominates the schedules.  

In football, Keyser was scheduled to play three Maryland opponents in 2020, all three Allegany County schools - Fort Hill (Sep. 11), Allegany (Oct. 16), and Mountain Ridge (Oct. 30).  That leaves the Stephen-men with three holes on the 10-game slate.  

Frankfort was scheduled to play two Maryland opponents in 2020, Northern (Sep. 25) and Mountain Ridge (Oct. 2). Both games have been replaced.  In any event, that’s a combined tally for both schools of 25 percent of their opponents being Maryland public schools.

Keyser is looking to fill those three slots with an announcement coming soon on replacements. The Falcons have already announced Spring Mills as a replacement for Northern on Sep. 25 at home, and Jefferson as a replacement for Mountain Ridge on Oct. 2 away.

An examination of Keyser and Frankfort’s 2019 schedules in soccer shows that out of a combined 76 scheduled games in boys’ and girls’ soccer, only 18 were against a Maryland public school opponent.  For each school, it worked out to being exactly nine Maryland public school opponents out of 38 scheduled games, for a combined tally of 24 percent.

In volleyball, an examination of the 2019 schedules shows a higher percentage of Maryland public school opponents.  For Keyser, seven of their 22 scheduled games, 32 percent, nearly one-third, were against public schools from across the river.  For Frankfort, that number was exactly one-third, with seven of their 21 scheduled events against Maryland public school opponents.

In golf, the numbers are in fact more dramatic.  For both Keyser and Frankfort, of 17 scheduled matches scheduled in 2019, 13 of the 17, 76 percent, included Maryland public school opponents. It’s important to note that those events didn’t exclusively include Maryland public schools, so they wouldn’t necessarily be cancelled per se, they may just have lesser, or a different mixture of opponents.

An assessment of cross-country schedules from 2019 shows that in the case of both Keyser and Frankfort, approximately 40 percent of all meets either are located in Maryland or include a significant number of Maryland public schools. Like with golf, while the contest scheduled to be held in Maryland may be cancelled, not all meets involving Maryland schools would be cancelled entirely the make-up of the teams would change.

The Maryland postponement of fall and winter sports through the first semester most definitely does have an effect on Keyser and Frankfort in terms of sports scheduling. As the analysis shows, however, by no means does the bulk of Mineral County’s sports schedules involve Maryland public school opponents. A significant number? Yes. Do they dominate the landscape? No.

In any event Keyser athletic director Shawn White and Frankfort athletic director Jay Hesse to some extent saw this Maryland cancellation as a possibility and planned accordingly.  In fact, with anything being a possibility this year, they continue to plan for other contingencies.

It’s hard work in a normal year. It’s work ten-fold more difficult this year. Put them in your prayers.