PCHS vs. PH: Game should be played tonight due to weather, but it won’t be

As of this writing 33 high school football games in this region of the state have already been moved, almost all to Thursday (tonight) due to the coming storm which appears to be mostly three days of rain. The forecast beginning early Friday morning is for basically freezing type temperatures, and cold rain, a 100 percent chance of cold rain beginning in the early morning hours of Friday and lasting all day and through the night. So the moving of games to tonight makes all the sense in the world.

One game will not be moved. Patrick Henry at Pulaski County. Why? It’s such an obvious decision to make. Why not? Because the office of the Superintendent of the City of Roanoke Schools (Rita Bishop) says no. Why? Because Virginia Tech is playing football in Blacksburg. I understand the magnitude of that, but what does that have to do with a high school football game? Word is they don’t want to put their team on a bus on I-81 over traffic concerns.

Fine. How about riding old Route 11? Once you get to exit 118 there is little traffic on the interstate after that. The high school game would be over and PH headed for home long before the Tech crowd would empty out. Are we concerned about safety? Sure we are. Everybody is, but the Pulaski County junior varsity football team is heading down I-81 for a game at PH tonight. We care as much about our kids as anybody in Roanoke does.  You expect us to do that, but you don’t expect yourself to do the same. What is that? It’s a terrible decision in this opinion, and a very shortsighted one as well. One wonders if it’s just a matter of not caring that much about a game.  Pulaski County cares about the game.

It’s likely that Pulaski County and PH will play in a lob lolly. It hurts both teams, certainly doesn’t help either. Officials at Pulaski County very much wanted to move the game. Most of the people involved in athletics at PH wanted to play tonight as well. But the office of administration in Roanoke said “no.”

It will cost Pulaski County High School’s athletic budget a great deal. The field in Dobson Stadium will face major and expensive repairs. The loss of ticket revenue will be in the thousands of dollars. You cannot expect fans to come out in freezing, pouring rain, and they won’t. Some of them due to health concerns can’t even if they wanted to. Pulaski County has hopes of gaining the opportunity of hosting a playoff game. Now it may not have a field playable enough to do it.

I have been told this is a policy of the Roanoke School System not to put a bus on the road when Tech is playing. Geez. That’s flimsy indeed. Does Roanoke have any concerns about its partners? Pulaski County has played PH in football for 44 years. Do you have any concerns for your fellow school systems? It would certainly be easy to say we must place all our concerns on ourselves. Well, that wasn’t the case just a few short years ago. Roanoke asked others to care about them.

The City of Roanoke School System threatened legal action against the Virginia High School League if something wasn’t done to improve their schools’ scheduling situation. They were concerned about travel. Guess they still don’t want to travel where Pulaski County is concerned. The VHSL was apparently not willing to risk a fight in court, and bent to the wishes of the “Star City.”

With the beginning of the 2013 football season the VHSL changed the very foundation on which it was built and allowed districts to have member schools from as many as three different classifications. In the case of the River Ridge, that’s Class 5, 4, and 3. PH is the Class 5. The City of Roanoke got what it wanted. Now there are really no districts at all. We have scheduling agreements. So PH gets to force its way into the RR, and William Fleming into the Blue Ridge. There are no longer any district championships, no all-district teams, many of the things that used to be very meaningful are gone to satisfy the City of Roanoke.

Now Pulaski County has a situation with the weather and wishes to change the playing date 24 hours, and the answer is no. What a way to say thank you. All the other schools were forced to give up a lot just to welcome somebody into the RR they did not want. Pulaski County was supportive of PH and as the numbers indicate have always agreed to play that school. Again, what a way to say thank you. Or is it you just don’t care.

And now Pulaski County needed to play this week’s game on Thursday for a hundred good reasons, but PH says Tech is playing and we ain’t coming. It is likely to be the only game played in the region. It’s “Senior Night” at Pulaski County. Possibly the final home game for some fine young men. Now their families will be asked to stand out in the cold, freezing rain. Don’t call the Pulaski County school system and ask why. Call Roanoke.

“Star City.” Hardly. This was an horrendously bad decision. The Pulaski County School System will be financially damaged by this, the quality of play on the football field will suffer, and thousands of fans will not be able to see the game so bad the weather will apparently be. This is not right. This was a wrong decision. My only response would be the next time the “Star City” needs a favor, tell them to turn the lights off and save a few bucks.

Dan Callahan, The Patriot