HUNTINGTON — Cabell Midland football coach Luke Salmons didn’t think anything involving game play in the COVID-19 era could get crazier than when his team scheduled a season opener just hours before kickoff.
But on Friday morning, Salmons and the Knights had their Class AAA playoff contest against Spring Mills postponed to 4 p.m. Saturday due to Berkeley County schools going red on the daily COVID-19 map used by the West Virginia Department of Education.
“Just one day,” Salmons said. “That’s all we needed was one day.”
Despite the late development, the situation in itself isn’t all that abnormal in this season of twists and turns.
The scenario it presents for Saturday, however, is wilder than anything potentially seen this season.
Follow along ... and try to keep up here.
This is where the Class AAA postseason path seems as winding as the West Virginia Turnpike teams are taking to get to games.
Because Berkeley County was gold at the beginning of the week, the teams within the county are eligible to play if they drop back to orange when the daily map is released at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
If so, Spring Mills will be allowed to play Cabell Midland at 4 p.m. as scheduled; similarly, Martinsburg will be allowed to take on Bridgeport in another postponement.
Where Spring Mills’ situation differs from any other within the state, though, is that its trip to Ona is a six-hour trek.
With the daily map coming out at 10 a.m. and a 4 p.m. scheduled kickoff, the math was against Spring Mills in this scenario, so the Cardinals were forced to make a decision: hit the road prior to Saturday’s daily map coming out.
By the time the updated map comes out at 10 a.m., Spring Mills will be on buses already rolling toward Ona in hopes that the game is played, as confirmed by West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission Executive Director Bernie Dolan.
“I talked to them,” Dolan said. “They are going to have to be on the road before that decision is made.”
Salmons said he also was under the impression that Spring Mills would leave prior to the daily map’s release on Saturday in hopes of getting to Ona.
For the Cabell Midland head coach, his players woke up Friday thinking it was gameday, only to find out officially that it had been postponed.
Salmons held practice on Friday, more so to get everyone on the same page and have the team focused in case of a game on Saturday, even though he admits he’s not sure what to think either.
“I don’t understand it, really,” Salmons said with an exasperated laugh. “I’ve never seen anything like it. I don’t know what to think. We’re just getting our guys together so they can hear a plan from us and get focused. We have to prepare as if we are playing on Saturday. That’s all we can do.”
The initial thought of everyone in hearing the scenario is, Why not just delay the game until later Saturday evening?
Therein lies the problem.
At roughly 5 p.m. on Saturday, the new weekly COVID-19 map is scheduled to come out, which determines status of high school teams moving forward for the week.
That’s what makes the 4 p.m. kickoff such a critical time for both teams as they look to get the game in.
For Berkeley County to use its gold status from last Saturday’s map, the game must start prior to the release of the new map on Saturday.
Should the new weekly COVID-19 map for West Virginia schools come out prior to kickoff, it would become effective for play immediately.
With numbers in orange and then red for Berkeley County all week, general logic says is not likely the county would remain gold on the seven-day trend, which would make Spring Mills ineligible to play once the new weekly map comes out.
For the Cardinals, it appears that it is 4 p.m. Saturday or bust, so they will make the early trek in hopes that the 10 a.m. daily map becomes favorable.
If the map goes orange, the Cardinals will lock up with the state’s top-rated team at 4 p.m.
If it stays red, Spring Mills’ buses will turn around and head back home with their season officially over.
As of Friday afternoon, Dolan said, there was no indication which way the numbers may go.
“It’s a crapshoot one way or the other,” Dolan said. “I don’t know if they are peaking or if they are still rising.”
As for Salmons, his team is in the better of the two scenarios. The Knights either will host a 4 p.m. game with the prospect of advancing to the Class AAA semifinals, or they will advance based on Spring Mills not being eligible to play the game.
“I want to play, but I’m glad that we’re not in the position that we have to travel,” Salmons said.
Like his team, Salmons wants to see it played out on the field.
That answer will not come until 10 a.m. on Saturday morning — just hours before the scheduled game.
As Salmons stated, though, if the game is able to proceed, his team will be ready. He said they’ve prepared all season for the playoff run, though they have yet to take the field for its first snap.
“They’re ready to play and they’ve made a lot of sacrifices — just like we all have,” Salmons said. “They’re excited about playing. Everything looked good (Thursday) and then it didn’t (Friday), and that’s tough.
“We just hope that we’re able to play Saturday. They want to play. It’s all just weird, but we’ll do whatever we can. Our kids want to see it happen on the field.”