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Grid coaches support new regulations

PARKERSBURG – The WVSSAC has issued some new requirements and recommendations in order to make the high school football season a safer venture.

The new requirements are:

¯ Extend the coaching box for social distancing on sidelines (from the 15 to 15);

¯ All water provided will be individual containers/No public water sharing systems;

¯ Limit sidelines to essential personnel only (coaches, trainers, managers, etc.);

¯ Extend timeouts and length between quarters to 2 minutes;

¯ Social distancing announcements should be made over the PA throughout the contest.

Kudos to WVSAAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan and his staff. The requirements make sense, easy to implement and enhance safety.

The WVSAAC recommendations are:

¯ Travel with fewer players to away games/dress fewer for home games;

¯ Modify pregame meals;

¯ Use extra dressing facilities/come partially dressed to away games/Dress in smaller pods of 10-15 at a time;

¯ Arrange dressing and shower situations with host team;

¯ Conduct halftimes in the end zones instead of dressing rooms;

¯ Pay-per-view options for schools to recover lost revenue;

¯ Transportation and or bus modifications per West Virginia State Department guidelines;

¯ Limit practice to only one contact day per week;

¯ No pre- or post-game handshakes;

¯ Electronic tickets recommended;

¯ Hand-sanitizing stations on the sidelines;

¯ Follow local health department guidelines for reporting suspicious COVID cases;

¯ Band and cheerleaders – recommended not to travel to away games.

I touched base with some local grid coaches on their thoughts about the new guidelines.

“I am good with some of the changes. I’d be OK with the 15/15 rule permanently,” Oak Glen head coach Ted Arneault Jr. stated. “The only thing I worry about with the recommendations are limiting the travel squads. When you are a smaller school like we are there is a need to have adequate subs in a game.

“Maybe if you are a 100-person squad like Park you would have more ability to limit who travels for away games and dresses for home games,” he added. “Ultimately, we will do whatever it takes to have a season because it is a life-changing opportunity that our kids need.”

Arneault guided the Golden Bears to a 10-0 regular season en route to advancing to the Class AA playoff semifinals last fall.

Wheeling Central’s Mike Young enters the season riding the wave of three successive state Class A championships. He is supportive of the new regulations.

“The guidelines are going to be a challenge for everyone and the procedures are very safety specific. Adjustments with distancing is really going to be the leadership of the administration and physical management team,” Young said. “The players and coaches will adjust and make it work. In order for it to work to play…let’s go for it.”

Zach Heasley is embarking on his second tour of duty as Paden City’s head coach. He sees the regulations as a way to save the season.

“I think the regulations are fair. The SSAC is doing everything they can to have a season and I greatly appreciate that,” Heasley said. “Being a small school, I don’t agree with some of the recommendations such as staying on the field during halftime. That will lose kids’ focus. We will definitely have a max of 25 people in the locker room so it wouldn’t affect us.

“But, I do hope they stick with the regulations and have a season. Cancelling the season or moving it to the spring will not be good for any school as we will lose money,” he continued. “It’ll be hard for schools to get back on their feet and to be able to pay for referees the next season etc.”

Chris Daugherty is in charge of a Wheeling Park program that often features more than 100 gridders. Such a total is a good thing in regard to building a strong team, but could prove problematic in a pandemic-rampant environment.

“It has been very difficult to do this the right way, which is the only way I want to do it,” Daugherty noted. “I am OK with the plan right now. I do think it could make it very difficult to open with an Ohio team if they don’t change much.

“We lost a week of practice and we are allowed only one scrimmage,” he added. “I was surprised they stayed with a 16-team playoff. I figured they would go to eight.”

The WVSSAC has also:

¯ Ruled that eight games will not be required to be playoff eligible; rather six games in your own class or above will both be required to be playoff eligible;

¯ Flex days may be used only with the principal’s approval and Phase III limitations must be followed;

¯ The start of football’s regular season has been pushed back one week due to the pandemic.

SKATING MONARCH

KRISTIN LEWICKI has opted to return to the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League. This will mark the fourth season the John Marshall High product has played in the NWHL.

In her first professional year, the former Adrian College star played for the Buffalo Beauts before moving onto the Metropolitan Riveters the next season. Lewicki returned to Buffalo last season.

Lewicki made the NWHL All-Star Game as a rookie, winning the Fastest Skater Award in conjunction with the game.

The soft-spoken standout was a two-time All-American at Adrian and is the sixth all-time leading scorer in NCAA D-III history. Lewicki authored a sensational senior season with 32 goals and 34 assists in 31 games. Those numbers pushed her career totals to 179 points in 113 games — 90 goals and 89 assists.

The multi-talented forward also received the ultimate honor. She was named the U.S. College Hockey Division III Women’s Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season.

BUBBA’S BITS

¯ THE HIGHLANDS Sports Complex hosted an open house last week, showcasing the massive facility. The state-of-the-art complex is impressive to say the least. It offers something for every sports-minded person. Moreover, the staff is the utmost in professionalism. Grand opening is set for Aug. 1.

¯ I PENNED a column a few weeks back detailing my first year as a basketball official. As fate would have it, I was contacted by the publisher of Referee Magazine. He asked me if they could publish that column in their magazine. It will run in the October edition. Referee is the world’s original sports officiating magazine.

¯ THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce is holding a fall banquet on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Martins Ferry Rec Center at 6 p.m. Featured speaker will be Rich Donnelly. The Steubenville native has coached at the Major League Baseball level for several teams, and owns a World Series ring while assisting Jim Leyland with the Florida Marlins. He also has authored a best-selling book – “The Chicken Runs at Midnight.” In conjunction with the banquet, the Martins Ferry Chamber is selling copies of that book at a reduced price. For more information on the banquet or the book, call the chamber office at 740-633-2565. Donnelly’s current coaching gig is manager for the New York Mets’ Class A-advanced affiliate farm team in Port St. Lucie (Fl). He coached the Pittsburgh Pirates with Leyland from 1986-96.

¯ THE WAIT is over. Major League Baseball opens regular-season play this week. The late start, a 60-game schedule and the uncertainty of the coronavirus add up to great anticipation. The Dodgers and Yankees are the trendy picks for a World Series matchup. But a coronavirus infection to a key player or two can train wreck the best-laid plans.

¯ BUILT DIFFERENT is staging a baseball and softball camp at the Highlands Sports Complex this week. In addition, a high school baseball showcase will be offered. The baseball and softball camp will be held on Tuesday, July 21 and Wednesday, July, 22 from 9 a.m. till noon each day. The showcase is set for 1-3 p.m. the same days. The camp is for ages 6-13 baseball and softball while the showcase is for ages 14-18 baseball. The camp will consist of hitting, fielding and agility instruction. There will be competition drills and awards given out throughout the camp. A Built Different hat and shirt will be given to each camper/showcase player. The showcase will consist of – Pitchers: bullpen, velocity, 30-yard shuttle; Position players/catchers: BP, exit velocity, 60-yard dash, arm velocity, pop time, 5-10-5s. Drop-off time for camp starts at 8:15 a.m. while pickup ends at 12:15 p.m. The showcase drop-off starts at 12:30 p.m. and pickup ends at 3:15 p.m. Cost is $50 which can be paid at the door. Checks should be made payable to Built Different LLC. Advance registration is available online at Builtdifferentllc.com under “Camps.” For more information, call 304-650-5655.

¯ DARIUS STILLS turned in a stellar junior season last fall for WVU. So much so, Stills has been added to the watch list for the 26th annual Chuck Bednarik Award. The award has been presented to the College Defensive Player of the Year since 1995. Bednarik is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the NFL Hall of Fame.

¯ THE PATRIOT League Monday announced that it was canceling its fall sports season. The league, headquartered in Bethlehem, Pa., consists of American, Army, Boston University, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola Maryland and Navy. One day later, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference suspended competition through Dec. 31. That means all fall sports are canceled while the start of winter sports will be delayed. The PSAC is an NCAA D-II conference and its members are Gannon, Mercyhurst, Seton Hill, Pittsburgh-Johnstown, Shepherd, Bloomsburg, California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester. ¯ THE DECISION to move the starting date back a week for prep football in West Virginia has schools reworking their respective schedules. Magnolia lost its game with Marietta but has added Ritchie County to its card. Linsly, despite not being a WVSSAC member, has opted not to play its Week 1 game at Austintown Fitch. The State of Virginia has canceled its fall sports season which will likely yield scheduling havoc for some W.Va. Eastern Panhandle schools.

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