07/02/06 — Legion season complete, teams still in the dark

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Legion season complete, teams still in the dark

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on July 2, 2006 2:17 AM

Once midnight approached Saturday, every coach and athletic officer associated with the Area I East division American Legion programs remained in the dark.

They're concerned with how second-year Area I commissioner Joe Tobert is going to handle rainouts, the lack of properly rescheduling games and other obstacles that took its toll over the final 10 days of regular-season play.

Earlier this week, Tobert stressed the importance of completing the schedule, but added he'd make the final decision. Tobert has organized a meeting at 3 p.m. today in Wilson to address the situation, and compile the final regular-season standings.

The eight-team playoffs begin Tuesday.

A late calendar school year, cramming 20 games into a 36-day window and the State Games of North Carolina also caused scheduling headaches. Rain washed out a few early-season contests and most of those games have been played, but it's certainly dampened the schedule during the last week.

"I think we just have to schedule more games early in the year," said veteran Snow Hill coach James "Rabbit" Fulghum. "And (you) have to do a little better job of planning. If you get rained out, you have to play so many games. Then you get rained out a second time, that hurts."

"It's just been a difficult year."

Ahoskie, Edenton and New Bern each completed its 20-game division schedule. Wayne County fell one game shy, while other teams missed making up at least two or more contests.

The missed games are one item on a long agenda expected to be discussed this afternoon. Tobert's fax also included a clause that reads "all conference games not completed by midnight July 1 will result in possible forfeiture of game(s) against non-compliant team(s). You must make every effort available to accommodate the home team in getting the games completed, and rescheduled in a timely manner."

Tobert said that teams should not have waited until the end of the season to reschedule rainouts.

"The earlier (canceled) games is my concern," said Wayne County coach Brad Reaves. "Everybody that has games scheduled, I'd like to hear them say we're not going to count those against you. But something needs to be done about those teams that cancel games because they didn't have certain players there."

Schedule makeover

Coaches have mixed views on alleviating the cramped schedule.

Two years ago, the Area I East split up into North and South divisions. But coaches complained that the teams were not evenly distributed and that one division was "loaded" with all the good teams. The idea was addressed again this season, and quickly drew vetoes among the coaches and athletic officers in attendance.

A split division allows for more non-division play, but also creates a few more open dates for rainouts. Teams played 10 division games two years ago and single games "outside" the division. Some rescheduled games occurred due to rainouts, but not to the extreme like this year.

Several teams played doubleheaders toward the end of this week in an effort to complete their respective schedules. Wayne County has played two twinbills and Reaves plans to schedule more next season.

"We're going to try to do that a few more times next year," said Reaves. "Ahoskie is coming here and maybe Edenton. It's tough because you have to get fans there at 5 p.m."

The doubleheaders are seven-inning affairs and undoubtedly change coaching strategies compared to a single nine-inning contest. The games also become more manageable from a coaching and officiating aspect.

North Carolina is the only state that continues to play nine-inning games during the regular season. All other states play seven-inning games and switch to nine innings for the postseason.

The East coaches favor a seven-inning format, but the recommendation has to gain approval statewide.

Fulghum suggested starting the regular season a week earlier, which might interfere with the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. Or push the Legion season back one week and begin the playoffs around the 10th.

"If we had those extra days, we would be in good shape," said Fulghum.