Different shades of orange

BUCKHANNON – If you are a conspiracy theorist, the state and WVSSAC certainly gave you plenty of ammunition last Saturday evening.

The ever-so-popular state DOE COVID-19 map was strangely six hours late on Saturday after being released promptly at 5 p.m. since its inception. It came out a few minutes after 11 p.m.

Also happening Saturday evening after the normal release time of the map was the announcement of the football playoff pairings and the start of a couple of state tournament soccer championship games that involved teams from counties that would wind up orange on the map.

Again, I’m all for throwing the map away and letting the kids play games, especially postseason or championship contests.

If I were a conspiracy theorist though, I would probably lean that the delay might have had something more to do with soccer than the football announcement…if I were a conspiracy theorist. You decide.

And it looks like the WVSSAC decided to break…err sorry…change their own rules again.

In a change to their previous policy, football teams from orange and red counties were to be included in the playoff fields for the upcoming WVSSAC postseason tournaments.

That announcement came Friday night as teams were wrapping up the final week of the regular season.

The WVSSAC announcement said that the top 16 teams in the playoff ratings at the close of regular season play Friday evening will be entered into the brackets. Previously, it was announced that teams from orange and red counties on the state’s COVID metrics map would be excluded and the brackets would be backfilled with teams starting at No. 17 and so on.

WVSSAC Executive Director Bernie Dolan said on a WVMetroNews interview that, “To be clear to play however, counties must enter the green, yellow or gold category before game time. To accommodate teams that may still be in an orange or red county on this week’s Saturday 5 p.m. map release, a Sunday option has been introduced. Sunday games would kickoff at 1:30 p.m. If a team’s home county is still unable to enter a green, yellow or gold category, they will be forfeited, and their opponent will receive automatic entry into the next round.”

On Friday’s daily COVID map, seven of the top sixteen teams in Class AAA would be ineligible under the previous policy.

I’m not going to go into another full rant about this, but can somebody simply give me a good reason why the volleyball teams (see story to the right) in orange aren’t given an accommodation to compete in the state tournament but the football teams are in the state playoffs?

Governor Jim Justice entertained the idea of simply shutting down the remaining fall post season tournaments. As much as I don’t want to see that happen, the continuing bizarre last-minute decisions made by the WVSSAC and fairness for all make it seem like maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Again, maybe I am missing something here not being the smartest guy in the room, but I give up on trying to figure out any rationale for what the WVSSAC and the state does these days.

Turning to the Fearless Football Forecast, my genius continues to shine through as I went a perfect 5-0 last week. My counterpart, Shea Phillips at Number One Auto, compiled a 4-1 record.

My season record now stands at an impressive 37-11 or a winning percentage of 77 percent.

Shea keeps falling further behind as he now stands at 31-17 for the season.

Onto our games this week.

Elkins (5-3) at Sissonville (5-0)

This is the No. 16 vs. No. 1 matchup in Class AA. While taking nothing away from what Sissonville has accomplished this year, despite being No. 1 in the WVSSAC rankings, I doubt many truly feel they are the best team in Class AA. The WVMetroNews power rankings have them at No. 6 this week and that sounds about right. I am smelling a huge upset here…I have ever since the playoff pairings were released on Saturday. For all the Elkins coaches and fans I have upset in my 25 years as a sports writer, this one is for you!

Duane: Elkins, 29-14; Shea; Sissonville, 21-20

Washington (5-4) at Bridgeport (6-1)

The No. 12-No. 5 game in Class AAA. Washington deserves all the credit in the world for making it into the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, their stay is going to be quick. Bridgeport wins this one going away. I am way more interested in the potential Bridgeport-Martinsburg second-round game next week.

Duane: Bridgeport, 44-14; Shea: 38-28

University (3-3) at Musselman (6-1)

Leave it to a John Kelley team to lose to your rival by 54 points two weeks ago and still slip past them into a playoff spot despite identical 3-3 records. The Hawks did beat a ranked Oak Hill team to land No. 14 in the rankings. The prize for that? A trip to No. 3 Musselman. I expect this game to be over at the half.

Duane: Musselman, 42-13; Shea; Musselman, 39-20

Middle Tennessee State (2-5) at Marshall (6-0)

It isn’t Marshall’s fault that most their non-conference schedule got wiped out, and while they are No. 16 in the country and unbeaten, their opponents have just a combined record of 16-16 and that look even worse if you take out Appalachian State’s 5-1 record. Marshall will roll once again.

Duane: Marshall, 48-23; Shea: Marshall: 52-21

TCU (3-3) at WVU (4-3)

The way I see it, this is WVU’s last chance for a win this season. I see little chance of them beating Oklahoma at home next week or Iowa State on the road in two weeks as both teams are ranked in the Top 25. I think WVU squeaks out a close one against the Horned Frogs.

Duane: WVU, 28-24; Shea: WVU, 35-21.



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