Jackson County football reunion cancelled

Mark Martin
Sportswriter
Jackson Newspapers

Three former football players from Jackson County were looking forward to getting together this past Sunday in a West Virginia Class AAA playoff game.

No. 1 Cabell Midland was set to host the No. 5 Bridgeport Indians in a semifinal game at Knights Stadium in Ona on Sunday.

The winner of the game would move on to the state championship of the troubled 2020 high school football season due to COVID-19.

The head coach of the Knights is Luke Salmons, a one-time Ravenswood Red Devil great.

One of his assistants is Eddie Smolder, a former Viking star and Ripley head coach.

Bridgeport’s staff consists of Ripley native and former Viking standout Adam King, the Indians defensive coordinator.

Salmons and Smolder played college football at Marshall while King suited up for WVU.

As most know by now, the semifinal game and Jackson County football reunion wasn’t played.

The state’s color-coded COVID-19 map, which determines school activities, wiped the game out.

The other semifinal game in Class AAA between South Charleston and Musselman also wasn’t played.

In the color-coded breakdown, South Charleston was awarded the AAA state title.

SC’s athletic director is Ripley native Bryce Casto.

Not only did Class AAA have a state champ crowned without a game but the case was also true in Class AA and Class A where Fairmont Senior and St. Marys were honored as the respective champs.

COVID-19 presented its share of problems throughout the regular season for teams and continued into the playoffs with a bevy of cancellations.

Salmons felt he had a state championship-caliber team and was frustrated with the way the season came to a screeching halt.

“You know it's hard to lose and it not be on the field,” he said. “There’s a lot of teams that have been through the same thing.

“When you practice 70 some times and play five games, you (try) to keep the kids' hopes up and spirits high. They’ve done everything they were asked. It’s different, so you use it as a teaching moment but at the same time a lot of this we’ve never had to deal with…it’s different.”

Ripley, where Smolder coached for five years, had been set to play SC in the opening round of the playoffs but never got the opportunity due to the map.

No one knows for sure what might have happened for any of the 48 teams who made the playoffs, even South Charleston, Fairmont Senior, and St. Marys.

All of this year’s playoff teams and the rest of high school football programs in West Virginia hope to never endure another season like 2020.