EDITORS NOTE: This story rewrites the original report with news late Friday afternoon the game between Clay and Bluefield High Schools is now re-scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 15th.
BLUEFIELD, WV (WOWK) — The best indication yet of how COVID-19 is impacting high school sports has been on display the last 24 hours in southern West Virginia.
On Thursday the Clay High School Panthers were having their first football practice of the season when Head Coach Jason Nichols was told their plans for Sunday’s playoff game against the Bluefield Beavers had been not only canceled but that the Panthers were being forced to forfeit the game.
Nichols tells 13 Sports the cancellation was because the Clay County School district had earlier that day gone to virtual learning. Under the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission (WVSSAC) schools in counties which are red, orange or gold and are completely remote are prohibited from participating in any athletics program because of the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Nichols says he and the team thought it was the end of the season and says he told the boys to turn in their equipment.
Mercer County Schools then announced the game between the Panthers and the Bluefield Beavers scheduled for Friday, Nov. 13th had been considered a forfeit and Bluefield would advance to face North Marion in the AA state playoffs on Friday, Nov. 20th.
But just after 4 p.m. Friday, the original game day, Nichols says he got another call – this time that the game was back on – but re-scheduled for Sunday. He says he’s not sure of the exact circumstances but says a complaint had been filed that games are supposed to be based on the West Virginia Department of Education’s school map issued each Saturday, not on game day.
“I’m just happy we get to play,” Nichols says “whether we’re ready or not I’m just glad they are going to get to play. These boys have been on a rollercoaster this year and their resilience is simply amazing.
So hours after turning in their equipment, and told their season was over, the Panthers will now compete for the state title.