Approaching the big 4-0.
This Sunday marks the official 40-day countdown until the start of the 2019 high school football seasons in both Ohio and West Virginia.
In a little under six weeks, the pigskins start flying around as eight of the nine programs from the Ohio Valley Publishing area begin their respective quests for league titles, unbeaten seasons and playoff berths.
One local program, however, has already suffered a bit of a loss — just not one that will show up in the record column.
Point Pleasant is once again facing a nine-game regular season slate after losing a potential matchup with Reigning Sports Academy out of Grove City (OH). The Thunder ultimately cancelled what would have been their first season with varsity football.
That leaves the Big Blacks — who have made the West Virginia playoffs the last 11 consecutive postseasons — facing open dates in the first two weeks of their schedule, with the official season opener coming Week 3 at cross-river rival Gallia Academy.
After a Week 4 trip to Lincoln County, Point Pleasant begins a six-game homestand with its home-opener against another first-time varsity program in Bishop Sycamore (OH) in Week 5. The Big Blacks conclude the regular season at James Monroe.
Gallia Academy enters the 2019 campaign having won seven straight regular season contests and nine consecutive Ohio Valley Conference games after securing the program’s first playoff berth in six years and the school’s first-ever OVC football title.
Outside of locations, the only change in the schedule for the Blue Devils this fall is in Week 3 — when they make their home debut against Point Pleasant in the first Battle for the Bridge matchup since 2016.
Meigs moves into the post-Mike Bartrum era with former Eastern and Ripley head coach David Tennant now at the helm. The Marauders also enter the year as a Division V program, down from D-4 a season ago.
St. Clairsville and Point Pleasant are gone from last year’s regular season schedule, with the Maroon and Gold picking up games at Warren and at Rock Hill this fall. Meigs begins the year by hosting Gallia Academy and also travels to Logan in its remaining non-conference bout in Week 8.
Wahama has the exact same 10-game schedule as it did a year ago, albeit the locations of this year’s matchups. The White Falcons open the year hosting Ravenswood and end the season at Buffalo, with all of its league games — minus the Week 9 bye — coming in between.
This fall marks Wahama’s 10th and final season as members of the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division before joining the Little Kanawha Conference in the fall of 2020.
Both Eastern and Southern have identical schedules from a year ago, outside of the locations of those contests.
The Tornadoes missed the playoffs after falling to the host Eagles in Week 10 last year, and both face off again the regular season finale at Roger Lee Adams Memorial Stadium.
Eastern opens the year at Huntington Ross, while Southern travels to Portsmouth Notre Dame in Week 1.
Both River Valley and South Gallia also have identical schedules from a year ago, outside of the locations of those contests.
The Raiders picked up their only win of the season last fall in the Week 10 finale at South Gallia, an 8-0 decision in the first-ever Clash of the County contest between Gallia County programs.
River Valley opens the year at Coal Grove before making its home debut against Gallia Academy in a Week 2 Saturday night affair. South Gallia begins the Vance Fellure era with Symmes Valley at home in Week 1.
Hannan enters the 2019 campaign with a full 10-game slate, compared to nine a season ago. The Wildcats won’t face Green and Buffalo this year, but have added road games with Trinity Christian, Van and Parkersburg Catholic.
Hannan opens the year at Parkersburg Catholic and makes its home debut in Week 3 against Tug Valley. The Wildcats have a bye during Week 6 and play four of their final six contests at home.
The next 40-some days will go fast — and football will be here before you know it.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.