Oct. 28—FAIRMONT — Fairmont Senior football found itself in a strange predicament these past two weeks — back-to-back bye-weeks late in the season.
How did the Polar Bears find themselves there? Out-of-state opponent Carrick, from Pittsburgh, canceled the scheduled game versus Fairmont Senior for Friday, Oct. 13 and didn't notify Fairmont Senior until Monday, Oct. 9.
"We had a contractual dispute," Fairmont Senior Head Coach Nick Bartic said. "There were some administrative issues with our scheduled opponent. They felt no contractual obligation once their coach, who had made the deal, quit right before the season. They had no communication with us with regards to any type of change in the contract. They backed out, and we didn't find out 'til the week of the game."
Thankfully for Fairmont Senior, who scheduled homecoming that week, Big X opponent Elkins switched its bye week and the scheduled game against Fairmont Senior so the Polar Bears could play. Fairmont Senior won 42-8.
With the deadline of Oct. 1 to schedule a game long passed, a new opponent for the original Elkins week, scheduled the week after the already planned bye-week, couldn't be found. Fairmont Senior, with two weeks of no contests, approached it like training camp, according to Bartic.
"We told our guys it's back to camp," Bartic said. "And kind of treat like the approach we have in August for a season. Try to stay focused on fundamentals and conditioning."
The players have responded as well as they could in the circumstance they're in, Bartic said. They're evidently eager to play again, though.
"It definitely feels slow in practices," junior quarterback Brody Whitehair said. "You don't really have much of that anticipation for an opponent. Just kind of starts off slow, but you got to keep [in mind] that that's the hard part of the season, these kinds of adversity you have to face, and then you fight through that you can really fight through anything."
As slow as it may be, the team tries its best to keep the energy up and motivate itself with the mindset to improve for the next game on the schedule.
"It's really been like 'I want to play, I want to play, I want to play,' but you can't really play all the time," junior receiver Cannon Dinger said. "You got to keep working, keep getting better. It really is hard to keep energy, but we got to all motivate each other. If one guy has a good practice, all of the guys have a good practice."
With the second bye-week almost over, the season-finale against East Fairmont on Friday, Nov. 3 approaches ever closer. Fairmont Senior is ranked fifth in AA at 6-2, while East Fairmont is ranked eighth at 7-1. East Fairmont has a road date with No. 9 Lewis County (5-3) this Friday.
The game between Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont has potential to affect the postseason, as both teams sit in the Top 10. Bartic sees the game as a great way to end the regular season.
"It's always a big game," Bartic said. "It's our favorite game because it means so much to the town, to our area, and there's so much history. It's the oldest continuously played game in the state. That alone makes it special, and then both teams are having successful seasons. There's a lot of playoff implications on the line. You have a Top 10 matchup, and it's going to be a big time atmosphere."
Fairmont Senior's players are confident about winning against East Fairmont even after not playing the two weeks before the game.
"Just expecting to dominate from first quarter to the end," Whitehair said. "We've had a long time to prepare. There's no excuse not to."
The 103rd East-West Game at East-West stadium kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3. But for Fairmont Senior this Friday, it's the second straight night against the Bye-Week Bisons.
Reach Colin C. Rhodes at 304-367-2548