There are 44 Timesland high schools that play varsity football.
It comes as no surprise to Roanoke Catholic athletic director Matt Peck that none of the other 43 has more new opponents in 2019 than the Celtics.
Assembling a football schedule at a Virginia independent school can be akin to working a jigsaw puzzle in the dark, and Peck is still trying to get the pieces to fit.
Roanoke Catholic has just eight games scheduled in 2019, and that’s up from seven at this time last week.
Five of the Celtics’ 2018 opponents — King & Queen, Fishburne Military, Eastern Montgomery, Fuqua and Blessed Sacrament-Huguenot — chose not to play Catholic this year after the quintet lost to the three-time defending VISAA Division III champions by a combined score of 294-44.
Catholic’s scenario is not wholly unusual in the VISAA, where verbal agreements are not binding contracts, and they are on a year-to-year basis.
“Be careful if you have any success in private-school football in the state of Virginia,” Peck said. “Because your current teams will essentially pay for the ‘sins’ of successful years past. That’s kind of what happened to us.”
Catholic’s 2018 worksheet under veteran head coach Bob Price included wins over King & Queen (69-20), Fishburne (62-8), Eastern Montgomery (43-8), Fuqua (52-8) and Blessed Sacrament (66-8). The Celtics defeated Fuqua of Farmville 61-8 in the Division III state final.
The halftime scores of those six games were 56-6, 62-0, 28-0, 45-0, 52-0 and 40-0.
“There are certainly some hard feelings out there, but at the same time I’ve been cognizant of that over the past several years,” Peck said. “As the athletic director, I’ve watched every single game our football team has played for years.
“I’ve simply never seen our coaching staff intentionally run the score up on anyone, yet there were some scores that were certainly lopsided.”
The Celtics also have benefited from several transfers, including leading returning rushers Kawuan Ray and El-Amin Shareef, and former Jefferson Forest player Adrian Whorley.
At the same time, 2017 standout running back Mykah English left Catholic and went back to play his senior season at Staunton River.
“We’re in Roanoke where there’s a lot of high schools, and a lot of options for kids to go to if kids don’t like their current school,” the Roanoke Catholic AD said. “It’s a little different than maybe a setting like Farmville.
“We don’t have a plethora of transfers. We might get two or three a year.”
Catholic’s 2019 schedule includes four new teams — VHSL members Bath County, Parry McCluer and Manassas Park along with 2017 VIS Division II champion Blue Ridge. VIS Division II schools North Cross, Norfolk Christian, Hargrave Military and Nansemond-Suffolk are holdovers from 2019.
“No one in Division III will play us,” Peck said. “All of our private-school games are in Division II. We were lucky to find two public school opponents.
“The football scheduling process, the amount of calls and emails and simply looking through MaxPreps to try and find teams that only have a nine-game schedule, it’s still ongoing.”
Peck lined up Manassas Park — which canceled its 2018 season — just last week after scouring MaxPreps looking for teams that did not have a 10-game schedule.
Catholic has just three home games this year and opens the season Aug. 30 at Bath County.
Peck is still looking to fill dates for the weeks of Sept. 6 and Sept. 27.
Roanoke Catholic has been on the other side of this scheduling issue. The Celtics withdrew from the Virginia Independent Conference when it included powerhouse Liberty Christian and have not been back.
The Celtics also halted their series against crosstown rival North Cross for six years over “philosophical differences” in the approaches of the two programs — punctuated by a 40-0 win by the Raiders — before resuming it in 2016.
“At the end of the day, I have nothing but respect for those Division III teams,” Peck said. “They’re doing what they think is right for their programs.
“I do get it. I do understand where they’re coming from in a lot of ways. That doesn’t help us get games, and I hate it for our current kids to have to suffer.”