NARROWS, Va. — The Bears went over the mountain. And who knows if they will ever be back?
According to social media reports later confirmed by the head football coach of a program slated to play Bland County early in the 2019 season the Mountain Empire District team, which competes in VHSL Region 1C, has canceled its season due to insufficient player turnout.
It began as social media reports Thursday evening and Narrows High head football coach Kelly Lowe subsequently confirmed that Bland had canceled its game with Narrows scheduled for September 6 along with its other games.
"We just found out today," said Lowe on Thursday evening.
Efforts to reach Bland County head football coach Harris Hart and other school athletic officials were unsuccessful.
"I hate to see a school lose their football program. It's an unfortunate situation all the way around," Lowe said.
At the beginning of the week Lowe heard that it was possible that Bland might not have enough for a team and started looking for potential opponents that could fill that date.
Thursday morning Kevin Pauley, Bland County assistant to the athletic director posted on his Facebook page that anybody that wanted to play needed to let the coaches know by the evening:
"Calling all 9-12 graders football practice today at 4:00 . It is very important that you come today if you plan to play we are down in numbers .. If you plan to play and can’t be their today please let one of the coaches know so we can plan on numbers."
Narrows, which competes in the Pioneer District and has become a fixture in the Region 1C playoffs under Lowe, did not want to play a nine-game slate. Lowe had to scramble to find an alternative non-district opponent who could fill that date just under a month away.
"I started looking at schedules and we found a pretty comparable game with Northwood and Northwood is going to slide into that game on Bland's date," Lowe said.
Northwood High was scheduled to play Bland County September 13 and had a bye week for Sept. 6. The Panthers will merely move their bye to Sept. 13 and travel to the Green Waves for a Sept. 6 clash.
The cancellation of Bland County's season will also affect the schedules of Craig County, Eastern Montgomery, Grayson County, Rural Retreat, Auburn. George Wythe, Galax and Fort Chiswell.
— Sports editor George Thwaites contributed to this report.