From the Bench: A New Harsh Reality of Saturday for Administrators, ADs Smacks BHS Squarely in Mouth

By Jeff Toquinto on October 25, 2020 from Sports Blog via

It is not unusual for a Bridgeport High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Mark Jones to log some after hour and weekend work time. In fact, it is not unusual for anyone holding those positions to have to face the situation.
This year and, this past weekend, took things on the AD front to a whole new level. And as one might suspect, it is COVID-19 related.
“It was continuous phone calls after 5 p.m. Saturday,” said Jones.
Continuous is not hyperbole. For those wondering why there was no quick announcement on changes to the upcoming soccer sectional schedule or finding an opponent to replace Buckhannon-Upshur for a football game Friday evening, it was simple. It is not simple.
Football would be the tricky one. If Bridgeport did not play, it would only be Bridgeport impacted. Soccer, however, involved a whole new batch of issues and a whole lot of teams. Not an easier fix, but one that required plenty of cooperation between multiple parties.
While soccer and football were simultaneous issues after 5 p.m., I will talk football first. Considering the Indians struggled finding foes in their return to Class AAA and struggled before landing Huntington on what was initially an open week, Jones and Coach John Cole knew finding an opponent would not be easy.
Even worse? The Indians wanted the game to be at home to create a homecoming event that was scratched two weeks ago – also after 5 p.m. Saturday.
In the event anyone reading this is wondering about 5 p.m. Saturday. It is the time when the West Virginia Department of Education releases its color-coded map that determines if schools within counties have low enough metrics during the pandemic and the subsequent right color on the map to be allowed to compete.
With that out of the way, 5 p.m. was the launching point for a long, long weekend that continued into Monday morning.
“Coach Cole and I reached out to a lot of different programs for the kids, especially since the previous two games had been wiped out,” said Jones. “It was a task to say the least.”
The task paid off. The Indians found a foe – albeit one of the top teams in Class AAA in Spring Valley – but they agreed to come to BHS. Kudos to SVHS for agreeing to hit the road for a game.
“It’s hard to get teams to come here, and at the same time, it’s harder now because a lot of teams are in the same predicament we have to face,” said Jones. “Not every team can just commit to heading here for a two or three-hour road trip.
“Other openings involved programs that may have already had an opponent they lost on their schedule earlier and had an obligation to play them,” Jones continued. “You ended up calling and waiting, and even until we ironed out everything with Spring Valley you never knew if something would change. Change is the one constant.”
If Jones did not already know that, he found out when working on the postseason boys and girls soccer sectional tournaments. This time, he was not a solo AD contacting other ADs in search of a game. Rather, he was working with all of them on a singular goal.
“It was a task, even though we all wanted to get there, because you had to have a unified agreement,” said Jones.
The reason for the change being needed was Upshur County being in the orange category when the map came out and Buckhannon-Upshur, in the same soccer sectional and also the originally scheduled foe for Bridgeport this Friday in football, would be out.
As Chris Johnson reported, Sunday night it was reported B-U would be allowed back into the postseason if the teams tested for COVID-19 and there were negatives. Two hours later, that decision was rescinded.
“For a short period of time, we were told anyone in orange would be able to test and that got rescinded quickly,” said Jones. “After that, it was back to the drawing board. We were on the drawing board for a while.”
It was fixed. Eventually, the sectional was set up to give Buckhannon a chance to compete. You can read about it HERE, even though another orange on Saturday by one of the team’s involved in the sectional will throw the entire process in flux again and we’ll likely be getting addressed as you’re reading this if so.
“The thing with this is the color could change again; the rules could change again,” said Jones. “We’re at the mercy of variables that are out of our control. We’re just hoping for the best for our student-athletes and those at other schools as well.”
The fact Bridgeport’s color changed the Saturday before yesterday allowed them to be eligible to compete in everything, including the cross country regional. Regional events, unlike sectionals, have no flexibility to go into the next week.
Constant change, flexibility, no flexibility and more. It's all part of the new reality student athletes and their respective high schools. Like so many others, that reality smacked Bridgeport in the mouth several times this month.
The good news is Jones and the rest of the BHS administration and coaches got back up from it, and knows what it feels like. That experience is a good thing because I have a feeling it won't be the last time it happens.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Assistant Principal Mark Jones, left, with Principal Matt DeMotto, dealing with issues via the phone prior to an earlier football game. Next two photos show girls soccer and football action that has managed to take place despite the pandemic.

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