PARKERSBURG - For the past 18 summers, the Battle Against Cystic Fibrosis football classic has been an event in which hundreds of players have enjoyed participating.
That trend has apparently changed as first-year Ritchie County High School head football coach Mike Dawson is finding the going tough as he prepares to lead the West Virginia team in the annual matchup against the Ohio All-Stars at 7 p.m., Friday, June 8.
"I was given a list of 40 names by coaches from around the area," Dawson explained. "I sent out letters, with self-addressed return envelopes, to every player and I received 19 back and one of those had to drop out already."
With practice slated to begin at Stadium Field at 6 p.m. on Friday, the lack of sufficient numbers could pose a problem for the charity event.
"I'm not sure how we will be able to practice," added Dawson, who led the Rebels to a 6-5 overall mark and a berth in the Class AA playoffs. "We won't even be able to line up and work on things because we won't have enough players to field an offense and a defense."
West Virginia improved to 12-6 in the series with a 14-0 victory at Stadium Field a year ago and the Mountaineers have come out on top in six of the last seven encounters with their Buckeye rivals.
Ravenswood, the defending Class AA Little Kanawha Conference champions, has five players who have agreed to play in the contest while Dawson's Rebels will be represented by a trio of players. St. Marys, Paden City, Tyler Consolidated and Doddridge County all have two players who have agreed to play the game while Parkersburg and Wirt County will have one player in the game.
"I never dreamed in a million years that this would happen," continued the coach. "When I played and coached in the OVAC game, it was considered a honor and we never had this kind of problem.
"And some of the reasons that I have been receiving are hard to believe. I mean, I can understand it if a college coach has told a kid that they wouldn't want them to play in the game, but to not play because of a 'senior trip', that kind of floored me."
Athletes can still sign up for the game by contacting Dawson at Ritchie County High School (304-869-3526) or at home (304-643-5845).