The neutral site at which Oakton and Stone Bridge were scheduled to play their Virginia AAA championship football games this Saturday became considerably less neutral yesterday.
The Virginia High School League moved both games from University of Richmond Stadium after determining the field was unplayable because of the winter storm that hit the area earlier this week. Both Stone Bridge and Oakton will now play at venues much closer to their opponents' home towns.
Oakton (11-2) will play Landstown (13-0), a Virginia Beach school, in the Division 6 title game at Hampton's Darling Stadium at 4 p.m. Saturday. Stone Bridge (12-1) will face Hampton (12-1) in the Division 5 championship at Todd Stadium in Newport News at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We regret having to move these games this close to the actual play dates, but we felt this was the best response under the circumstances," VHSL Executive Director Ken Tilley said in a release.
Todd Stadium is about 10 miles from Hampton High School, which has won a state-record 16 football state titles.
Hampton "already had [a home-field advantage] somewhat," Stone Bridge Coach Mickey Thompson said. "Now they really have it."
According to the release, various venues were considered, and the change was approved by the VHSL's AAA officers. The release added that the new venues allow fans to attend both games since the stadiums are within a few miles of each other.
"The decision to play at separate sites was based on the need to accommodate the crowds and to avoid the possibility of deteriorated field conditions for a second game at the same location," Tilley said in the release.
"I'm sure they did everything they could," Thompson said of the VHSL's effort to find a neutral venue. "I don't really want to question the VHSL. I'm just disappointed in the final location."
Both Mickey Thompson and Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said their teams originally hoped to travel to Richmond on Saturday morning but now will likely travel tomorrow and stay overnight in a hotel.
Said Joe Thompson, "The reality is, with the opportunity to play in the state championship, we'll play anywhere."