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by Greg Talkington
A piece of Wetzel County history will be made tonight when Class A juggernaut Valley Wetzel (3-0) plays Class AA power Magnolia in New Martinsville (3-0).
The contest will mark the first football meeting between the two schools, just 18 miles apart.
What would possess a small Class A school to play a school nearly twice its size?
"They called and asked us," veteran Valley coach Tom West said. "They had an open date and we knew were going to have an open date."
That opening came up thanks to Madonna's reluctance to play the Lumberjacks last season.
"They didn't show up and then forfeited the game," West said. "So when (Magnolia athletic director) Brian Castilow called last fall, we decided why not? That will be a good test for our football program."
Magnolia needed a 10th game when it had to drop Bridgeport from the schedule.
The Blue Eagles face a few Ohio schools, and one of their top rivals, Monroe Central, had to re-arrange its schedule, forcing Magnolia to play on the date it normally played Bridgeport.
"We really didn't want to drop Bridgeport," Castilow said.
"We felt it was good competition for both schools and they treated us great up there, but when we tried to find another date to play, it couldn't be worked out," Castilow said.
Castilow said scheduling Valley Wetzel just made sense.
"We used to be Class AAA, but since we've dropped to Class AA we've been trying to reconfigure our schedule some," Castilow said. "We're trying to play basically Class AA teams, with maybe a Class AAA game here and a Class A game there.
"Since they've been in the playoffs the past several years, it just seemed logical to play them."
Relations between the two schools are good.
"Since their field isn't certified for the playoffs, they've used our field as their home field," Castilow said. "It's kind of like their home away from home."
Castilow pointed out that it's likely the players are familiar with each other.
"I'm sure that a lot of the kids know each other," he said. "Between movies, fast-food places and recreational opportunities, it's most likely they've done some things together."
Venturing out of the Class A ranks is something Valley seldom does.
West knows his team will have to play its best to stay competitive.
"On offense, we'll need to execute so we can possess the football," he said.
"If we can do that, it will give our defense a chance.
"One thing I know, we can't make any mistakes, because they run a million different formations and spread you out all over the place."
A huge crowd is expected for the contest. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.