PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - Tom Harmon did his best balancing act Sunday at the Secondary School Activities Commission offices.
Harmon, in his 17th year as football coach at Wayne High School, spent the first portion of Sunday's semifinal playoff organizational meeting bouncing back and forth between members of the coaching staffs at Huntington and Wheeling Park high schools, which were seated on the opposite ends of the SSAC's meeting room.
He was making sure that a plan to move his own team's semifinal against Robert C. Byrd was logistically feasible. Pioneer Field, where Wayne plays its home football games, has been rendered a mud pit after a combination of seven Pioneer home games, late-season rains and use by area youth league teams as well as Wayne's own marching band.
Since Wayne is a Class AA school, Harmon had to wait until the Class AAA teams remaining in the postseason selected the sites and times for their semifinals. Harmon did not want to be lacking an answer when called upon by SSAC Executive Director Gary Ray to name his host site, as is the prerogative of the higher-seeded team in each playoff game.
When informed that Wheeling Park intended to play at Huntington at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night in a Class AAA semifinal, Harmon was free to name Huntington's Bob Sang Stadium as his own home field.
That made the selection of date and time fairly simple for Robert C. Byrd Coach Bruce Carey. The Class AA state championship game is played on a Friday night, and Carey - who coached at Bridgeport during the Indians' run in Class AA from the mid-1990s to early 2000s - prefers to stay on that schedule when having to make a road trip.
"We're very thankful to Huntington for allowing us to use their facilities," Harmon said in a 10-minute interview following the meeting, after most coaches and administrators had already left the SSAC compound.
"It's almost like borrowing somebody else's car for the prom," Harmon said with a chuckle. "We'll take our operation there. They're just very helpful. A lot of these people work together."
The "these people" Harmon referred to were residents of the Huntington area, including those who live in Wayne County, and it is in addressing those residents where Harmon's balancing act was raised onto a high wire.
Without pointing fingers, blaming or whining, Harmon said a mouthful with a simple sentence.
"They're in a county that has put an investment in some of the athletic teams," Harmon said.
Field turf was installed at Huntington High in 2009. Cabell Midland followed suit a year later. Both projects were funded with public dollars and overseen by the Cabell County Board of Education.
In December of last year, Wayne County residents went to the polls to vote on an excess bond measure that would have provided Wayne County schools with $20 million from the school building authority. Part of the project applied for by the Wayne County BOE including installation of turf at the school's three high schools: Wayne, Spring Valley and Tolsia.