EDITOR'S NOTE: Second in a series of articles on the history of the city of Wheeling hosting the West Virginia high school football championship games.
By RICK RYAN
One example of the special treatment given to teams competing in the Super Six - the Wheeling Feeling, if you will - has to do with the players' equipment that will be used on game day.
Teams drop off their equipment at Wheeling Island Stadium the day before they play, leaving it in the hands of William "Sarge" Cordery, the Super Six equipment manager who has assumed almost legendary status for his work in Ohio Valley athletic circles.
Spring Valley, for instance, dropped off its trailer full of equipment at Island Stadium about 4 p.m. last year on Friday, Nov. 30 - the day before it met Martinsburg in the Class AAA championship game at noon. From there, Cordery takes over, preparing each and every player's gear and giving the locker room the look of a professional team.
"Sarge stays up all night doing the triple-A game's equipment," said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess. "After the double-A game, they take it out of the trailer. They shine the helmets, shine the shoes, hang each jersey and pants and all of that up in each locker with the kid's name on it. It's nothing but first class, and they do a great job with it."
That ends up being several hours of meticulous work, because last year the Timberwolves dressed about 100 players for their game with Martinsburg. The Bulldogs dressed nearly 60 players that day. And that's not counting the players' equipment needed for the AA game on Friday night and the Class A game Saturday night.
"I think it was his idea, as far as I can remember," said Bernie Dolan, the SSAC's executive director, about Cordery's TLC treatment of each team's gear.
In recent years, Cordery has served as equipment manager for Wheeling Park High School, the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference All-Star Game and the North-South All-Star Classic, as well as the Wheeling Thunderbirds/Nailers hockey team and the Nashville Kats, a former Arena Football League team.
Prior to each Super Six game, Cordery inspects the helmets and shoulder pads and provides any assistance, if needed, in getting the equipment game ready. In a recent interview with The Times Leader, Cordery explained why he goes the extra mile in his Super Six preparations.
"My No. 1 concern is to make sure those kids are safe," he said. "I check their helmets, check their pads. I don't want anyone getting a concussion or breaking a collarbone.
"I'm representing Wheeling. They all come up here. Players are from Charleston, they're from Beckley, they're from Greenbrier. They remember this place and what the committee did for them."
Dingess, whose team has competed in the last three Super Six Class AAA finals, said the special Wheeling treatment extends well beyond just handling the players' gear.
He mentioned that Super Six officials are always available to handle teams' individual requests while they're in town. "It's very well organized," Dingess said. "If you need something, they go out of their way to get it done for you. One time, we needed a conference room to meet in. They go that extra step to make sure you have everything you need when you're there. They even provide us a place to do our walk-throughs."