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Breaking down the Spring Valley, Wayne football series

August 22, 2018

HUNTINGTON - Wayne High School head coach Tom Harmon and Spring Valley High School head coach Brad Dingess have plenty of reason to be excited about the 2018 football season.

Spring Valley is expected to be a contender in Class AAA while Wayne is expected to be one of the Class AA favorites.

That doesn’t necessarily mean either coach is all that excited about opening the season against each other at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Wolves Den at Spring Valley.

The lack of excitement isn’t a matter of not wanting to play each other. Players on both sides are eager for the matchup of two of the state’s best teams. Instead, the uneasy feeling for both coaches is how the game came together in the first place.

“It’s not that we are saying we don’t want to play the game,” Harmon said. “We look forward to the opportunity to play the game, but it’s something that was done under curious circumstances.”

Since the last meeting of the teams in 1999 there had been attempts to resurrect a series, but much of that talk was quiet in recent years because of Spring Valley’s involvement in the Mountain State Athletic Conference and the league’s late issuing of its schedule and Wayne’s similar issues as a part of the Cardinal Conference.

So what are the “curious circumstances” Harmon mentioned?

Simple. Neither coach was involved in the discussion on the contract.

“All that was done, I guess, through the principal’s meetings and all that stuff,” Dingess said. “It wasn’t a normal way of games being contracted. Normally, we play 10 in-conference games, so we’re not normally doing stuff like that anyway. It was different because the whole time I’ve been the coach, we had Terry Porter as the athletic director. Anything to do with scheduling ran through him. This one wasn’t.”

Dingess said when he found out about the contract being sent from Wayne his first call was to Harmon, whom he had played baseball for at Buffalo-Wayne and coached with in Wayne’s system the last time the teams met in 1999. At the time, Dingess was Wayne Middle School’s football coach and helped on the high school staff.

“When I found out, I called Tom and Tom didn’t know anything about it,” Dingess said.

Harmon said that, to this day, no one has ever officially told him that he is playing Spring Valley on Friday.

The contract, a two-game series for 2018 and 2019, was signed by then-Superintendent Sandra Pertee and the two principals of the schools - Wayne principal Sara Stapleton and Spring Valley principal Steve Morris - during the 2016-17 school year.

Prior to that school year, Wayne County Schools eliminated its full-time position of athletic director at each of the three high schools, including Tolsia.

Harmon was Wayne’s athletic director at the time, but now is a special education teacher at Wayne Middle School.

That left contracts and things of an athletic nature in the hands of Pertee and the principals of three high schools, which is a lot to take on when already running a school or its system.

Pertee announced her intentions to resign on Nov. 12, 2016 with an effective date of Jan. 31, 2017.

At the time of her announcement, Spring Valley was in the midst of a 2016 playoff run that would take the Timberwolves to the Class AAA state championship for the first time in school history while Wayne was one week removed from a 4-6 season, which was only the fourth time in Harmon’s tenure - now 21 years - that the team had not advanced to the Class AA playoffs.

While Spring Valley and Wayne are the talking points of Friday’s game, the real story is Tolsia and the effects of the game on the Rebels’ football program.

The Spring Valley-Wayne contract took the place of the Wayne-Tolsia series on Wayne’s schedule, which had been played in each season since the consolidation of Tolsia from Fort Gay and Crum in 1988.

Just as the coaches for each team were not alerted to the contract, Tolsia was also among those not consulted about the addition of the Spring Valley-Wayne series and subsequent ending of the Tolsia-Wayne series.

When the Tolsia-Wayne contract expired following the 2017 meeting, Tolsia principal Reva Sanders-Wallace sent paperwork for a new contract. That contract was never signed and Tolsia officials were later alerted to the Spring Valley-Wayne series, to their surprise.

“They were left holding the bag - trying to find a game that they didn’t think they’d need since we’d played for the previous three decades,” Harmon said.

“The games between Spring Valley and Wayne for the next two years are going to be bigger than what the Tolsia games are, but it screws Tolsia from a financial perspective,” Dingess said. “It hurts them bad. And I’m not so sure that anyone from Tolsia was sure what was going on, either.”

Harmon expounded on its impact a bit further.

“That’s money that they (Tolsia) can basically run their program on for almost two years,” Harmon said. “It’s a big part of it. It wasn’t done with the best interest of everyone involved. I could see if it was lopsided, but it was a competitive series. If things had stayed the same, all three schools would’ve benefited. There had been times in the past where we were looking to fill our schedule, but this wasn’t a situation where we were looking for games.”

Dingess said Friday will be an odd feeling because of the myriad of emotions and circumstances surrounding the game.

“It wasn’t a game that we were actively looking for,” Dingess said. “The fans got what they wanted because I think the communities have wanted it for a while, but those within the programs in the county, I don’t know. It didn’t go down how it should’ve gone down or how any normal game goes down. It was definitely a different situation.”

The one common variable with the situation being different is the lack of an athletic director in this particular case.

Athletic directors consistently work with coaches to make sure schedules are filled with the best intentions of all parties involved.

As it turns out, the Wayne-Spring Valley matchup Friday night will be one of the most talked about games in the state of West Virginia.

There will be one winner. But, there will also be two losers.

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