Every high school football team entering playoff action this weekend has at least one in-house problem they're dealing with heading into postseason play.
It's just the nature of the beast.
But not many grid teams in West Virginia have had to deal with as much off-the-field drama as Elkins the past two weeks.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Edgar Kelley
A group of Elkins High School football players huddle up during a recent contest at Wimer Stadium. The Tigers will travel to Huntington for first round Class AAA playoff action on Friday.
Not only did the Tigers, like many others in the area, have to suffer through the terror brought on by Frankenstorm, but the team also had to endure a roller coaster of emotions brought on by something out of their control.
It all first started two weeks ago when the Tigers learned that their leading rusher, L.J. Lawrence, had been declared ineligible and that the team would have to forfeit seven wins they had fought valiantly for.
During a court battle that ensued to get Lawrence back, Hurricane Sandy took over the East Coast and blew blizzard-like conditions across the area,
Just four days before Elkins' contest at Lewis County last Friday night, Lawrence was reinstated, but because of weather conditions and power outages throughout the area, the Tigers were unable to get players out to practice in order to prepare for their regular-season finale.
"To be honest, the kids really handled everything a lot better than we did as adults," Elkins coach Greg Hott said. "With the power outage it was hard to concentrate on football. We were only able to practice for two days, and on that first day we only had 13 kids able to make it to practice. We had a full squad on the day before the game, but we had to practice inside."
With the weight of the world seemingly on the Tigers' shoulders, they ventured to Weston to battle the Minutemen, where they dropped a 27-14 decision.
"The rust really showed against Lewis County," Hott said. "We were off the week before the game and during that time we were told we had an ineligible player and had to forfeit our wins. It really put a lot of stress on our team."
Now that the power is restored and Elkins' squad is in tact, Tiger fans can expect to see their squad ready to roar when they travel to Huntington for first round Class AAA playoff action on Friday.
"Typically when you have adversity with a team, they either fall apart or come closer together," Hott said. "In our case, we've definitely banned closer together. The kids' attitude has been great and they've stuck together as a team."
An emotional Tiger squad isn't the only thing the Highlanders will have to prepare for on Friday, though. Elkins will also take a playoff savvy squad into the contest that has 15 of its players returning from last year's playoff team.
"We had a meeting after last year's first-round loss to Hurricane," Hott recalled. "And at that meeting the kids said they wanted to make it back to the playoffs next year and not have it end the way it did. They got a taste of what it takes to win a playoff game last year and now they know what they have to do. They're really anxious to get out and play this week."
Kickoff for Friday's contest is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Bob Sang Stadium.