Safety first for area teams

Published 8:51 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Washington head coach Sport Sawyer (center) and Northside coach Keith Boyd (not pictured) announced on Wednesday that the Pam Pack-Panthers game scheduled for Friday has been cancelled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

Every coach has their own philosophy on how to win a football game, but when it comes to safety, they are all on the same page. With that in mind, Washington and Northside agreed to cancel their non-conference Week 3 matchup, as did Southside and Pamlico.
After days of deliberation, Riverside and South Creek decided to play their annual “Battle for the Paddle” game on Monday at 7:30 p.m., while Plymouth, who is scheduled to play at Edenton, is still weighing its options.
Over the weekend, Hurricane Irene battered the area leaving many in a state of distress and confusion, but one thing was abundantly clear: In a time like this, sports takes a backseat to real life concerns.
“We want to play football, but the safety of the players, the families and the community has to come first,” Washington coach Sport Sawyer said. “A lot of people were hit real hard, football is on the backburner right now.”
Northside coach Keith Boyd agreed.
“We can’t get our students back in school and some people are still out of town because they don’t have electricity. We haven’t been able to practice and next Monday is a holiday … With all this stuff going on we’re more worried about people getting back home, getting electricity and taking care of personal issues than we are worried about football right now,” Boyd said. “You’re kind of at the mercy of the cards you’re dealt. Nobody wants to cancel it, but it was the right thing to do.”
At Southside, similar issues have arisen, and like all the other area schools, the focus is squarely on helping each other get back to normalcy.
“We haven’t heard from all of our kids and we haven’t been in school, there’s just not enough time to prepare,” Southside coach DeWayne Kellum said. “Right now, that football game is not the most important thing.”
Trying to touch base with all the players has been a big challenge. Over the last few days coaches have contacted as many players as possible and so far the responses have been positive.
“I’ve tried to get up with as many as I can, but you have to remember about three-fourths of them still don’t have power,” Kellum said. “Some have called me and checked in, but I still don’t have power. Nobody along the river has power that I know of.”
Having a week off of practice can be a nuisance for coaches, but that is something that they will have to deal with once they take care of the more pressing needs.
“I haven’t even thought about (practice), when I was younger I might have worried about that,” Kellum said. “Me and the boys have been working so hard clearing trees out of the road so people can get out and clearing my yard up and helping my mother. I just got done mowing the football field and it’s still soaked.”
As of now, the target date for most schools to resume is Tuesday. Some of the coaches will try to organize voluntary practices, but that takes a distant second place in this scenario.
“We want to make sure it’s safety first for everyone,” Sawyer said. “Once that is done then we will try to get back to work. Right now, there are a lot of people without power who had to move out of their houses. Football is a great thing and an important thing but it’s not a top priority.”
As for Plymouth, the school is still considering different scenarios.
“Well, No. 1, it might be a washout for this week,” said Plymouth coach Robert Cody. “Other scenarios would be if we were able to get back in school (today) then we might try to play on Friday without practicing. The other scenario would be to play on Tuesday because of the Labor Day holiday on Monday. One other scenario would be that (Edenton) would find another game and we would just play next week.”
The only area schools that have a definitive Week 3 game scheduled are Riverside and South Creek. The two Martin County schools were cleared to practice on Wednesday and are preparing for their “Battle for the Paddle” showdown on Monday.
“It was an administrative decision, the (athletic directors) got together and came up with the decision to play on Monday,” Riverside coach Asim McGill said. “We got permission (Wednesday) to practice and the kids will go back to school (today) on a two-hour delay.”
South Creek coach Jeremy Jones was also able to hold a practice on Wednesday and said that playing on Monday offers the team a little bit more time to prepare for the game.
“With the situation being what it is, we have a lot of impassable roads and a lot of trees are down, we still have a lot of kids with no power,” Jones said. “It’s hard to get ready in two days and play on Friday night. … You never like to move a big game like that to a Monday, but you have to do what you have to do.”