Larger districts create changes to non-district football schedules

With the Class 4 Northwestern District adding one team and the Bull Run District increasing from five to eight teams, it was inevitable that the non-district schedules for the local teams in the 2019-20 scheduling cycle were going to have a different look.
While the popular Sherando-Martinsburg (W.Va.) rivalry isn’t going anywhere (though it now has an earlier date on the schedule), the most noticeable change is that Handley will not play Clarke County. The two schools competed against each other each of the last four years after not playing from 1999-2014.
For Handley, dropping Clarke County was the only change. The Judges will continue to play Warren County (away on Aug. 30 in Week 1), Harrisonburg (away on Sept. 6 in Week 2) and Skyline (home on Sept. 21 in Week 4).
“Football schedules are kind of a puzzle because you’re trying to match not only opponents but open dates and when people are playing people,” Handley director of student activities Reed Prosser said. “It’s really more trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together more than a specific desire to keep one opponent or lose an opponent. It’s just trying to match where everybody fits.”
On Sept. 13 in Week 3, Sherando will host Martinsburg, which extended its West Virginia state-record winning streak to 42 games by winning its third straight Class AAA state title this season. The Warriors also bring back Jefferson, W.Va., (home on Sept. 6, Week 2). Sherando is dropping Broadway and Loudoun Valley and adding Harrisonburg.
The Week 6, Oct. 4 game at Harrisonburg will be Sherando’s first game against the Blue Streaks since 2006 when Harrisonburg defeated a 10-0 Sherando team in the regional semifinals at Arrowhead Stadium. (The Warriors ended Harrisonburg’s season in the playoffs the previous year.) It will be the fifth all-time meeting between the teams.
Since Harrisonburg is a Class 5 school, and a strong one — the Blue Streaks went 6-5 last year — Harrisonburg could provide a ratings boost for Sherando. Class 4 state champion Woodgrove scheduled three Class 5 teams this year, which played a role in the 7-2 Wolverines edging 9-1 Sherando by one-tenth of a point in the final regular-season ratings.
“We want to schedule people that are going to win games,” Warriors activities coordinator Jason Barbe said. “We want to beat them, but we want them to win games. Loudoun Valley [4-15 record the last two years] didn’t really help us a whole lot in points the last two years, but that was a team that had averaged 8.5 wins the previous four years before we played them. We were looking to add someone [successful].”
Millbrook is keeping Jefferson (away in Week 1, Aug. 30) and Loudoun County (home in Week 2, Sept. 6) and dropping Turner Ashby and Washington (W.Va.). The Pioneers third non-district game will be against Heritage (Leesburg), a team that Millbrook has scrimmaged against each of the last five years.
James Wood is keeping Skyline (away in Week 3, Sept. 13) and Warren County (home in Week 4, Sept. 20) and dropping Hedgesville (W.Va.) and Park View (the Colonels played Justice this year after the Patriots canceled their varsity season). The Colonels are adding Class 3 Independence (away in Week 6, Oct. 4). Independence is a new school in Ashburn that will open in the fall. It will compete in the Dulles District.
Clarke County director of athletics and football defensive coordinator Casey Childs said he would have liked to have kept Handley and fellow local rival Warren County on the schedule. But he’s a lot more pleased about the 2019-2020 than the one he had to put together the last two years.
In 2017-18, the only non-district games Childs was able to schedule for his Class 2 Eagles were against schools in larger classifications. Clarke County did close the 2018 season with Class 1 West Point, but the Pointers were only added because Class 3 Manassas Park canceled its varsity football season in August. But as far as Class 2 games, Clarke County was limited to contests against Bull Run District opponents only.
With the Bull Run District expanding, Childs went into the scheduling process knowing he would have seven games taken care of through district competition, six of which are against Class 2 schools. (Central and George Mason have moved to the Class 3 Northwestern District, but East Rockingham, Luray, Stonewall Jackson and Page County have been added. Class 1 Rappahannock County — currently a Bull Run District member for all sports except football — will play a full Bull Run schedule next year and will host the Eagles in the regular-season finale on Nov. 8.)
“This is the first time in probably three cycles I haven’t had to try to get five to six non-district games,” Childs said. “It’s been difficult. We’ve been perennially a very good team. Normally, schools our own size don’t want to play us, and some of the bigger schools don’t want to play us because they’re in a no-win situation. They’re supposed to win, and if they don’t [it hurts them]. It’s been a struggle the last couple of cycles, so this one has been a little bit easier.”
Clarke County’s non-district schedule this year features former Bull Run District rival and current Class 3 Northwestern District school William Monroe (away in Week 3, Sept. 13), Class 2 Stuarts Draft (home in Week 4, Sept. 20) and an intriguing matchup to start the season. Clarke County will open at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 with Buffalo Gap, the team that ended the Eagles’ season in the Region 2B quarterfinals at Wilbur M. Feltner Stadium with a 32-21 score.
“We had already scheduled the game well before the playoff matchups were set,” Childs said. “It’s just one of those weird situations where that’s who we wound up playing in the playoffs, and we lost to them.
“But obviously, our kids are looking forward to the opportunity. That was one of the first things that was mentioned after the playoff game. We told them [Buffalo Gap] is who we open up with next year. The kids will be fired up getting another crack at them. At least I hope they will.”
Off weeks
With the exception of Millbrook (Week 8), the other four local teams will each get their off weeks in by Week 4.
Sherando has had its off week in Week 6 each of the last four years, splitting the regular season perfectly in half.
Barbe and Sherando coach Bill Hall said they would have liked to continue that, but the Warriors’ Week 4 bye might not be the worst thing in the world. Hall and his players noted this year how much of a toll the Martinsburg game took on them physically and mentally. The Warriors still beat a talented Kettle Run team 27-14 the week after playing Martinsburg this year, but next year they’ll have a week to rest before playing Millbrook in Week 5.
“It’s nice to have a week to heal up after a physical ballgame,” Hall said. “In a perfect world you’d have [the off week] in the middle, but there’s some benefit there following Martinsburg.”
For the last two years, Handley has technically not had an off week. Their open date was scheduled for Week 11 in both seasons, and they did not make the playoffs either season.
Judges coach Dan Jones — whose schedule will be broken up a bit the next two years with a Week 3 open date — said he liked Handley’s schedule the last two years.
“It’s nice if [the off week] is later in the year, where you can kind of recoup and get re-energized,” Jones said. “Week 2, 3, 4, I’m not a big fan [of an open date]. We’ll adjust to it and deal with it. But I’ve liked how the schedule has been a straight 10 weeks because our kids get into a routine.”
James Wood and Clarke County both have open dates in Week 2.
Millbrook coach Josh Haymore said he was glad that the Pioneers were able to secure another late off week. The Pioneers have not an open date prior to Week 8 since 2012, the year before Haymore took over as coach.
“That’s one of the things that [Milbrook coordinator of student activities Scott] Mankins and I talk about,” Haymore said. “We had an opportunity to have it the fourth week [next year], but I said I love having it late in the season, with two or three games after it.
“If you look at it as you want to go to the state title game — and everybody has that goal — you’re kind of splitting that season in half [with a Week 8 or 9 open date]. So I like it at the end.”
Dominion, Waynesboro, Manassas Park and Washington (W.Va.) are the other non-district opponents Clarke County will no longer play next year.
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