WVSSAC changes process; what it means for Keyser, Frankfort

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

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

Trying to keep track of not just the week-by-week, or sometimes day-by-day, or even sometimes minute-by- minute changes coming from the WVSSAC with respect to scholastic sports rules in 2020 is mind blogging.  

In fact, the WVSSAC’s COVID-driven rules can best be described by these lyrics from Tracy Lawrence’s 1996 song “Time Marches On:” “The only thing that stays the same is that everything changes, everything changes.”

They are not ill-intentioned changes. The WVSSAC no doubt has the best interests of the Mountain State’s student athletes at heart, and they desire to have them play and practice as much as possible.  

At the end of the day, however, the West Virginia Department of Education’s Saturday at 5 p.m. map ultimately dictates what happens, but even that isn’t totally clear.

As recently as Friday evening, as many schools were completing their final regular season football games of the season, of course we weren’t here in Mineral County due to being in the Red. But in any case, the expectation as to how the WVSSAC was going to handle the state football playoffs was clear.

The WVSSAC was to release the playoff seedings shortly after the Saturday at 5 p.m. education map was posted.  At that time, teams listed in the Orange or Red on that map would be excluded from playoff play, ending their seasons. Replacement teams would then be added beginning with the 17th-rated team and that process would continue until 16-team fields were produced in each classification.

It’s important to note that according to that original plan, Frankfort would have been initially seeded third, and Keyser would have initially been seeded seventh. Both teams would have been eliminated, however, as Mineral County ended up in the Red and the Falcons and Golden Tornado would have seen their seasons end.

But as Tracy Lawrence sang, “Everything changes, everything changes.”  And this one changed at nearly the last possible minute. As many of the Mountain State’s football fans were driving home or had just returned home from a game, news out of the Parkersburg headquarters of the WVSSAC broke.  

Another change, and this one a big one.

The new word was this: The WVSSAC would release the playoff seedings shortly after the Saturday at 5 p.m. education map was released. Playoff teams that found themselves in a Red or Orange status would not be immediately eliminated from playoff play. Instead, their games would be scheduled for next Sunday to allow for those teams/counties to improve their color status to Gold, Yellow or Green.

If the team’s county status improved to allow play, the first-round game would be played on Sunday, Nov.15. If the status remained Red or Orange, however, those teams would be eliminated and their opponents would automatically advance to the next round.

As it currently stands, Frankfort is seeded third and is slated to host 14th seed Independence on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 5 p.m.  

Keyser is seeded seventh and is slated to host 10th seed North Marion on Sunday, Nov. 15, at 3 p.m.  

“Slated to play” means that if Mineral County is listed as Gold, Yellow or Green on the map Saturday at 5 p.m. the games will be played. If we remain Red or Orange, the games will not be played, both Frankfort and Keyser will be eliminated from the playoffs and their football seasons will conclude.

That is the current status of things in Mineral County.  At this point in time, it is all a waiting game.

Mineral County, and Frankfort and Keyser, however are not alone in playing this waiting game. With the most recent release of the Saturday at 5 p.m. map, two counties were listed in Red (Mineral and Mingo), and nine counties were listed in Orange. In total, that’s 11 of 55 counties that must improve in order to play.

The effect on the playoffs is this. Five of the eight AAA games are scheduled for Sunday and may or may not happen. Three of the eight AA games are scheduled for Sunday and may or may not happen. Four of the A games are scheduled for Sunday and may or may not happen.

In total, that amounts to exactly 12 of the 24 playoff games scheduled for Sunday and thus they may or may not happen - a whopping 50 percent.

But this uncertainty is really no surprise, and unfortunately, it’s no different than what football programs throughout the state have become accustomed to.

Only one of the 48 playoff-eligible teams in West Virginia has completed a full 10-game season. Twelve teams have completed nine games; seven teams have completed eight games; 13 teams have completed seven games; seven teams have completed six games; seven teams have completed five games; one team has completed only three games.

None of the 48 teams slated for playoff play has won either 10 or nine games. Three teams have won eight games; eight teams have won seven games; 12 teams have won six games; 15 teams have won five games; seven teams have won four games; three teams have won three games.

It’s interesting to note that the top seed in each of the three classifications is expectedly undefeated, but perhaps unexpectedly, have only played five, five and three games apiece. Cabell Midland claims the top seed in AAA with a 5-0 record; Sissonville claims the top seed in AA with 5-0 record; Tug Valley claims the top seed in A with only a 3-0 record.

A total of only six of the 48 playoff teams are currently undefeated with each of the three classifications having two undefeated teams each. In class AAA, it’s Cabell Midland (5-0) and South Charleston (5-0).  In class AA, it’s Sissonville (5-0) and Liberty Raleigh (6-0). In class A, it’s Tug Valley (3-0) and Greenbrier East (8-0).

In a change from recent years, there are no teams that made the 48-team playoff roster with a losing record. In fact, only one team, University, the 14th seed in AAA, comes in with an even record of 3-3, the remaining 47 teams all have winning records.

Two of the 48 playoff teams have lost four games; five of the 48 playoff teams have lost three games. Twenty-three of the 48 teams have lost two games; 12 of the 48 teams have lost one game.  

It’s been a very different year for sure and that difference has now spilled out into post-season play. Advancing for the 48 teams now becomes as much a function of whether you win the COVID-lottery if your opponent must forfeit as it does beating them fair and square on the field.

But who knows, what we know today may change tomorrow. Remember, “Everything changes, everything changes.”