By Dave Morrison

West Virginia fall sports athletes got some good news Friday during Gov. Jim Justice’s Friday COVID-19 press conference.

West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission executive director Bernie Dolan announced that fall sports practices will start Aug, 17.

It was announced earlier in the week that the original start date, Aug, 3, was being postponed.

Dolan also announced that the first live contests will be Aug. 24 when golf can begin competition.

Competition involving cross country, golf, soccer and cheer can begin Sept. 2 and football will kick off with games the weekend of Sept. 3-5 (Thursday-Saturday).

It was welcomed news for coaches around the area.

“I’m happy to hear we have a start date,” Oak Hill coach Dave Moneypenny said. “We will continue to do what we are allowed and be ready when the time presents itself. I’m very optimistic.”

“I don’t care when the season starts, I’m just excited that we’re able to have a season,” PikeView’s Jason Spears said. “This is great for our boys, especially the seniors, to be able to finish out their high school football career on the field.”

Midland Trail coach Frankie Issacs, who on Thursday had expressed concerns about the season, echoed those statements.

“Im excited that the governor and Mr. Dolan with the WVSSAC have decided to provide the athletes throughout the state some hopes of a season,” Isaacs said. “Hope is a healthy and much-needed ingredient to bringing our nation out of this crazy situation we find ourselves in. I want a season but I want to promote a healthy strategic plan to do so and I think they have that in mind with the given guidelines that we’ve been provided thus far.”

Obviously the first week of the football season will be cancelled in many cases and potentially postponed in some others. Lost are rivalry games including Bluefield vs. Graham, Liberty vs. Independence and Wyoming East vs. Westside.

Wyoming East and Westside coaches said they were already working on potential alternatives to make their game, generally the largest gate for both squads, happen.

 “We started talking almost as soon as (Gov. Justice) was finished,” said Westside coach Herbie Halsey, whose team would host the game, which was originally scheduled for Aug. 28 “We’re looking at alternatives.”

“It’s one of the biggest rivalry games in the state,” said first-year head coach Jimmy Adkins. “We want to do everything we can to make this happen. Period.”

Alternatives include playing on a Monday, for which there is precedence. It does require a go ahead from the WVSSAC. The two do not share an open date.

Dolan also announced that the three-week practice window, which started for most teams this week, can be completed.

After that most teams will have about three weeks before fall practice camps open.