Oak Hill-Burg football game canceled


OAK HILL — Once might be an accident, an outlier, an isolated incident, an unprecedented perhaps situation.

A second time, on the other hand, can be an unfortunate trend — as is the apparent case with the Oak Hill High School football team.

That’s because the Oaks, unfortunately for the second time this season and citing low numbers with a high number of injuries, have decided to cancel a scheduled Southern Ohio Conference Division II tilt —as on Wednesday afternoon it was officially announced that Friday night’s game with Wheelersburg is officially off.

The cancellation was first confirmed to The Portsmouth Daily Times in a text message from Wheelersburg High School Athletic Director Jarod Shaw —then was shortly thereafter posted on the Wheelersburg High School Facebook page.

The post stated “Due to the number of injuries within the Oak Hill varsity football team, they will be unable to participate this Friday. The Oak Hill High School and Wheelersburg High School Athletic Departments appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding.”

That reinforced the brief statement on the Oak Hill Union Local Schools website, stating “Due to the number of injuries within our High School football program, we are unable to participate in this Friday’s varsity football game vs Wheelersburg. We greatly appreciate the patience and understanding displayed by the Wheelersburg Administration and Athletic department.”

Alas, what was feared following the Oaks’ cancellation of their game at Minford for week 4 came to fruition —another cancellation by Oak Hill of an SOC II contest.

When the Oaks contacted the Falcons for that cancellation, it was on a Tuesday — the day after Labor Day to be precise.

Wednesday’s with Wheelersburg was a perceived possibility, although the Oaks did play the past two weeks —home games against South Gallia and against league member Waverly.

The Oaks celebrated Homecoming for their game against South Gallia.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday night with The Portsmouth Daily Times, Oak Hill Union Local Schools Superintendent Jason Mantell was asked about the two cancellations.

“Against Minford, we could not safely field a full varsity team due to some of the injuries we had suffered at the time, so we let Minford know as soon as we possibly could that we could not play that game. We were presented some options by Minford, but we simply didn’t have enough varsity-ready kids for that game. With Wheelersburg, I was in discussion with (Wheelersburg Local Schools Superintendent) Mark Knapp, along with our athletic trainer, our coaching staff, our other administrators and our medical personnel. Basically, we decided to wait midweek to make a decision, for we wanted to see if some of our injured kids could be medically cleared by today (Wednesday), and if we didn’t have any new injuries arise. Unfortunately, there are enough kids which were not medically cleared, and then an illness has affected at least three more of our kids which is new, so that’s why we made the decision this afternoon to cancel with Wheelersburg,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, and I hate it, but our team right now at this moment does not have enough varsity-ready kids to play a game this Friday night.”

Mantell said he had hoped the Minford cancellation would be a one-game thing, allowing the Oaks’ injuries to heal —and have enough players for the season to continue.

The Oaks, as of their preseason Media Day on August 11, had 31 players — freshman through senior — listed on their roster.

They entered that Minford week with losses against Wellston, Piketon and Rock Hill, then lost to South Gallia —and last week against Waverly.

There was widespread speculation, primarily on Internet message boards and on social media, following the Minford cancellation that the Oaks would in fact play smaller-school South Gallia —but not play the bigger schools of Waverly, Wheelersburg and West, all of which have at least 40 players on their respective rosters.

Oak Hill did play Waverly, but Mantell said “unfortunately we had some more injuries occur in that game”.

“We wanted to see how the early part of this week went. We were hoping some of the kids who were held out the past two weeks would be medically cleared, but unfortunately they were not,” he added.

Mantell was then asked about the Oaks’ remaining three games —at Valley, at West and home against Northwest.

Obviously, only the Indians are of utmost and immediate concern.

“As of now, those are still scheduled. But I can’t definitively tell you right now that we will be able to play next Friday night (Oct. 6). Once again, we’re going to see what happens with this weekend, we’re going to be in touch with Valley. If we can get some kids medically cleared to play AND have enough what we feel are varsity-ready kids available, then we will play,” said Mantell.

Mantell, a former football head coach himself at both Manchester and Wellston, mentioned more than once “varsity ready”.

“Just because you have a kid listed by name on the varsity roster, that does not mean that he is automatically ready to be out there playing in a varsity-level football game,” he said.

Mantell maintains that the Oak Hill district is making these decisions in the best health and safety interests of its student-athletes.

“People are going to believe what they want to believe. And the very last thing I want to do is take away any opportunities for our kids to play football especially our seniors, for the band not to be able to perform, for our cheerleaders not to be able to cheer, for parents not to be able to watch their son or daughter play. But we HAVE to first and foremost be genuinely concerned about the health and safety of our kids. Football is important to a lot of people, I know that and I get that. We want to play. But for the simple sake of playing a football game, it’s not in the best interest if our kids are put in harm’s way,” he explained. “A loss of opportunity is not fair to anybody, and these decisions are not easy, but our kids’ health and safety comes first.”

As for Wheelersburg, the Pirates are left with an apparent open date —as of early Thursday morning.

One source informed The Portsmouth Daily Times on Wednesday that Pikeville in Kentucky, which played at Wheelersburg two years ago in an impromptu bout and won 20-7, has expressed interest in playing the Pirates —exact particulars and logistics being unknown.

The Panthers have an open date this week with their schedule, but were actively seeking to fill it.

Wheelersburg, following its 32-16 home loss against 4-1 Harvest Prep, is 3-3 —and currently 15th with Tuesday’s release of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division V Region 19 computer ratings.

The top 16 teams in each region, at the end of the regular season, qualify for the state playoffs.

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on X @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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