It may only be July but football fever is growing across southern West Virginia and the Cardinal Conference.
It will be a new era for the Cardinal as the league expands to 10 teams this fall with the additions of Logan, Winfield and Nitro — a trio of former Class AAA schools which are dropping down to Class AA status for at least the next four seasons.
All three new member schools will take to the gridiron this year in the preseason Cardinal Conference Gridorama which is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Aug. 20 at the Scott High School football field in Madison.
Five preseason scrimmages will be played and the schedule has just recently been released.
Action begins at 10 a.m. as Chapmanville Regional High School takes on Winfield.
Then in Game 2, Nitro battles with Sissonville at 12:15 p.m.
The third matchup is then set for 2:45 p.m. as the Poca Dots play Herbert Hoover.
Game 4 has Logan battling it out against Mingo Central at 5 p.m.
Then in the lidlifter, the host Scott Skyhawks play Wayne at 7:15 p.m.
The Cardinal Conference is usually strong year in and year out. Last year was no exception as four league teams advanced to the Class AA playoffs.
There will be a new league champion this fall, however, as last year’s conference title-winners, the Tolsia Rebels, have dropped down to Single-A and have left the league.
Last year, Tolsia advanced all the way to the Wheeling Super Six, falling 39-0 to Bridgeport in the Class AA state championship game and finishing with a 12-2 overall mark. The Rebels were 7-0 in conference play.
The Mingo Central Miners came on strong last year and finished second in the conference standings with a 6-1 mark, falling twice to Tolsia, including a 22-0 quarterfinal playoff loss and a 44-41 setback during the regular season. The Miners beat Summers County (68-28) and Bluefield (35-22) in the playoffs and closed out at 10-3 overall.
Chapmanville was also a playoff team last year but fell 42-14 at home to Robert C. Byrd in the first round of the Double-A playoffs. The Tigers closed out 7-4, dropping their last four games after starting out 7-0.
Chapmanville will be led this fall by first-year coach Rob Dial after 12-year head coach George Barker stepped down.
The Tigers finished in a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings last year with Herbert Hoover (4-3) and Wayne (4-3).
The Herbert Hoover Huskies advanced to the post-season last year as well and beat James Monroe 55-40 in a first-round playoff game on the road. Hoover closed out 8-4, losing 54-0 at Tolsia in the second round.
Herbert Hoover High School, and some of its athletic facilities, experienced a huge setback with the recent flooding in the Clendenin/Falling Rock area. The West Virginia floods claimed the lives of at least 26 people.
Wayne was just 5-5 last season and missed the playoffs, a super rare event for the tradition-rich Pioneers which experienced a down year. Wayne hopes to jump back to the top of the conference again this fall.
Six out of the eight Cardinal members had at least a .500 season or better.
The sixth team was Sissonville, which finished 5-5 overall. The Indians were just 1-5 to start the season but finished strong with four wins as Sissonville beat Clay County (13-12), Logan (56-0), Poca (69-12) and Braxton County (33-14).
Scott (2-8) and Poca (0-10) struggled last season and brought up the rear in the Cardinal Conference standings.
Logan (4-6), Nitro (1-9) and Winfield (4-6) bring a new wrinkle into the league this fall.
Nitro enters the season with a nine-game losing skid after beating rival Poca 39-14 in last year’s season opener then falling in the last nine contests. Nitro played for years in the very difficult Class AAA Mountain State Athletic Conference.
The conference will be split into North and South divisions.
The South Division is made up of Chapmanville, Logan, Scott, Mingo Central and Wayne. In the North Division are Herbert Hoover, Poca, Sissonville, Nitro and Winfield.
Cardinal Conference Gridorama
Saturday, August 20
at Scott High School
Chapmanville vs. Winfield, 10 a.m.
Nitro vs. Sissonville, 12:15 p.m.
Herbert Hoover vs. Poca, 2:45 p.m.
Logan vs. Mingo Central, 5 p.m.
Scott vs. Wayne, 7:15 p.m.
Team CONF ALL
Chapmanville 0-0 0-0
Logan 0-0 0-0
Mingo Central 0-0 0-0
Scott 0-0 0-0
Wayne 0-0 0-0
Team CONF ALL
Herbert Hoover 0-0 0-0
Nitro 0-0 0-0
Poca 0-0 0-0
Sissonville 0-0 0-0
Winfield 0-0 0-0
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).