HANNIBAL - The River Pilots' varsity football team won't play a game at Flannery Field this season.
Due to construction at and around River High School, the Pilots' administration had to begin looking at other options and both the Switzerland of Ohio Local Schools and Wetzel County School Boards formally approved at meetings earlier this week to allow the Pilots to shift their entire home schedule to Magnolia's Alumni Field in New Martinsville.
"Obviously, no one is crazy about having to play away from our own field," said incoming River High Principal Ed Trifinoff. "However, Magnolia was warm, cordial and opened their arms for us. This is the best logical, feasible solution to the problem we're facing."
The construction on the Pilots' campus hasn't touched the actual playing surface or bleachers of Flannery Field, but because of the construction area where the new elementary school is going up, there's very few accessible parking spaces or access to the field. It was just recently approved by the Switzerland of Ohio Schools to allow the River High students to return to class at the building on schedule next month.
The Pilots will make their debut in New Martinsville on Aug. 24 against Fort Frye. After back-to-back road games, the Pilots and Blue Eagles will play each other. Though it was supposed to be River's home game, Tisher believes Magnolia will serve as the home team.
Two more road trips are followed by back-to-back games against Bridgeport and Shenandoah.
The only schedule conflict between the Pilots and Blue Eagles comes in Week 10. River is slated to host Frontier, while Magnolia welcomes Steubenville Central.
Numerous ideas have been kicked around to combat that, including River playing on Saturday night, but nothing has been finalized for that week.
During the Pilots' games in New Martinsville, they'll take over the entire operation for the games just as they would had the games been played in Hannibal.
"We've talked a lot with Magnolia and their athletic director (Brian Castilow) to work on logistical things and the operation of how we do things," Pilots' Athletic Director Tom Tisher said.
Trifinoff met with the band and cheering boosters, explaining the situation. Those groups, who operate the concession stands at Pilots' games, will operate the two concession stands at Alumni Field for River games.
"The big thing for those groups is logistics," Trifinoff said. "There are some questions about where things will go when we're playing or when Magnolia is playing, but those will get worked out."
Tisher, head football coach Mike Flannery, assistant coaches Tim Tisher and Tim Frye actually began thinking about what they'd do if they had to move games as far back as April.
"We talked about having people park down by the dam and busing them up to the field, but questions of how to charge admission, water and sewage problems were also issues," Tisher said.
The group then shifted its conversation to where else it could play.
It visited Powhatan, but its facility isn't prepared to host varsity games. There was the brief thought of having to play 10 games on the road.
"It was depressing, at times, over the summer," Tisher said. "The thought of playing every game away was tough on all of us. We didn't want to do that to our kids."
Trifinoff, who took over his duties as principal on July 2, did plenty of research on the Powhatan venue, but it just couldn't be done.
"Playing at Powhatan was our first solution, but the ammenities we would need to hold a varsity football game just aren't there," Trifinoff said. "And there's not enough time to get everything. Plus, people don't want to put money into a temporary solution."
However, Magnolia, according to Tisher, actually showed interest in helping its cross-river neighbor.
"It kind of snowballed from there," Tisher said. "Our board was gracious to allow us to go somewhere else and the Wetzel County School Board has been overly gracious. Their administration and coaches actually went to their board meeting in case someone on the board might have had a question, so we've been really pleased with how much they've been willing to do for us."
Tisher and Trifinoff will meet with the coaching staffs in the not-so-distant future about all of the issues surrounding athletic facilities. Then a meeting will be held in which the general public will be invited to share its thoughts and any ideas.
"We want to encourage our fans to offer suggestions and ideas," Tisher said. "We realize not everyone is going to like this, but at the same time, we want them to understand what we've gone through to do this. This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. We've worked on this for quite a while and we felt this was the best way to allow our kids to have the most enjoyable season."
The Pilots' junior high schedule will remain the same and games will be played at Flannery Field.
The Lady Pilots' home volleyball schedule has also undergone some jockeying. The majority of the River home matches will be contested at Powhatan, but a few will be held at Magnolia, including matches against Frontier and Tyler Consolidated.