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The Press Box: Ready Set Go!

By Randy Rutherford - Sports Writer | Aug 11, 2021

Soon there will be a certain crispness in the air in the evenings, and the undeniable scent of campfire smoke will drift by. And if it was 1970 in Sistersville, you would hear the Tiger Marching Band practicing with that famous drum chorus beat echoing up the river promising to deliver a pregame entrance to Core Field that would have every Tiger Fan on their feet and cheering. Man, those are good orange and black memories.

I know. It isn’t 1970, but it is still my favorite time of year. It is the beginning of football season. Area teams all began practicing on August 2 with high hopes for the season. Heck, a couple teams couldn’t wait until daylight to start. Two southern area teams near Huntington WV, the Chesapeake Ohio Panthers as well as the Pikeville Panthers of Kentucky, took to their respective fields at midnight to start the season.

Closer to home area schools like Tyler Consolidated welcomed 32 players, Paden City had 17 players, Magnolia 28 players, Valley 28 players, Hundred with 18 players and River with 41 players

It is a tough month for these kids as the wear and tear of practice begins. All area coaches are very mindful of the hot conditions and take every precaution to ensure the safety of their players. Changes in the way high school drills are conducted have started all over the valley, and I can’t wait for the season to begin. Last year, due to the pandemic, many seasons were cut short and the dreams of seniors were destroyed by not being able to play. There were state champions crowned during 2020 in a shortened and sometimes surprising season ending. Let’s hope that this year will be a complete season for all area teams.

August is a month when many questions get their answers. It is a grueling time period that coaches find out who their leaders will be, who will fill certain positions, and who can handle the rigors of a long season. Conditioning is critical. Wind sprints, tackling drills, repetition of offensive and defensive schemes all take place in August to lead to the Friday Night Lights.

High school is not the only level of football to undergo changes to their fall camp regime. In the last five years college sports have pulled the teeth from fall camp in the name of safety. By doing this they have eliminated one of the more punishing rites of passage for NCAA football players. There are no more two-a-days. They have reduced the number of practice days, added in mandatory days off and reduced camp rosters. Opinions vary greatly about these changes. In a recent article published by Sport Illustrated, Mountaineer Head Coach Neil Brown shared, “I understand what the Oversight and NCAA are shooting for – to make our game safer.” Coach Brown serves as a member of the American Football Coaches Association Board of Trustees and says you won’t find a single coach against making the game safer. “The one aspect we have to keep in mind is, are we preparing the guys enough in this model for games?”

That’s a question that will be answered soon. I know I am not the only one ready to see the Silver Knights perform this season on their new state of the art field or our Mountaineers come roaring out of the tunnel with packed in fans at Milan Puskar Stadium. I just hope we can keep those countdown clocks ticking.

I recently lost a good friend to cancer. Butch Powell was a long time athletic director and head basketball coach at Nichols County High School in Summersville, WV. Following his years at Nicholas County, Butch became a member of the West Virginia Secondary Activities Commission in Parkersburg, WV. One of his greatest passions later in life was the Upward Sports program, sponsored by his church, Fellowship Baptist of Vienna, where he enthusiastically volunteered and served as their program director. Butch spent his entire career dedicated to young people of all ages. When I got my job as head football coach in Nicholas County, Butch was the AD and head basketball coach. We became very good friends during my seven years as the head football coach, and actually one of those years I served as Butch’s assistant basketball coach. I am pretty sure Butch was not impressed with my basketball knowledge. It seemed like we fouled a lot when I was coaching the JVs. I think that was the football coach in me, but working with Butch taught me a lot about organizational skills and preparation. The man was constantly researching, was never out worked and never out prepared. The sports world and the Vienna community lost a tremendous man in Butch Powell. He will be greatly missed. Rest in peace friend.

Here are a couple things to keep you up to date on area news and activities. First, PCHS Cheer Camp will run from August 9th -13th 4:30-6:00 at PCHS and is open to Pre-5th grade. Cost is $25 per child or $50 a family and includes a camp t-shirt. Registration will begin August 9th at 4:00. Campers will rotate through stations for jumps, motions, cheers, basic tumbling skills and fun. Both middle and high school cheer squads will be on hand to assist campers.

And I will close with some good news for Tyler County folks. Beginning this school year, all Tyler County residents will be admitted free of charge to ALL Tyler County School events! That sets us up to have great attendance at games and performances offered by our hard working students participating in extracurricular events! Now the ball is in our court. It is our job to cheer them on in person. Come on out and enjoy being with your neighbors while watching your favorites perform. I will be looking for you.