FRONT ROYAL — This week should have been a week to remember for Warren County’s football team. After Monday, it may be one to remember for all the wrong reasons.
After missing the playoffs last season, the eighth-seeded Wildcats were scheduled to play a Region 3B quarterfinal game against top-seeded Goochland on Friday. On Monday, Warren County backed out of the game due to health concerns with only 23 healthy players on the squad. Many of the varsity players quit the team after being upset with comments from Warren County head football coach Brian Bush after last week’s loss to cross-town rival Skyline.
“We just had 23 healthy bodies and most of those were kids that we pulled up from the (junior varsity) team,” Bush said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
He said that he wasn’t sure why the players quit the team and he didn't know the exact number that quit.
Warren County junior quarterback Bryce Post, one of the players who did show up for practice Monday, said that Bush yelled at the team after the 39-8 loss to Skyline and many players were upset with his words.
“He yelled at us like any other coach would after a poor performance from the team,” Post said after school Tuesday. “He didn’t do anything wrong, he didn’t say anything wrong. We deserved it in my opinion and I supported him. They took it the wrong way, I guess. I wish they didn’t quit. I wish we were playing but nothing we can do about it now.”
Post declined to say exactly what Bush said in the locker room, but did say that he agreed with everything Bush said.
“He said a lot of stuff,” Post said. “He just said it was a really bad performance and it looked like we gave up – and he wasn’t wrong in my opinion.”
Post said only about 12 varsity players showed up, and only about six of them were players who saw regular playing time. The rest of the 23 players at Monday’s practice were called up from the junior varsity squad. Bush said that the Wildcats, who have 32 players listed on their roster, had “30-some” players on the team against Skyline.
Bush said after talking it over with Warren County’s administration on Monday, the decision was made to back out of the game due to concerns about safety with the low number of players available to play. The Virginia High School League announced on Tuesday that Independence High School would take Warren County’s spot and play at Goochland on Friday. Independence is the ninth team in the region in the VHSL power ratings.
Bush said it was a very difficult conversation that he had with his players on Monday when he told them they would not be playing this week.
“It was upsetting. There were a few seniors in there, and they had played their last football game thinking they had one more,” Bush said. “And when this decision was made, it kind of tore them up, which is understandable. It was a pretty, pretty upsetting time. It’s a tough time right now, but the sun will come up tomorrow. We have to figure out what happened, where things went wrong, fix that and move forward.”
Post said that it was an emotional time in the locker room when Bush gave the players the news.
“Honestly, all the kids that were there were the ones that wanted to play,” Post said. “So we were all devastated and it sucked.”
Post said that he had heard over the weekend that many of the players were quitting and he said he did his best to talk them out of it.
“I tried to get kids to come back, and they had already just set their mind to move on from it and go to a winter sports or just quit sports altogether for whatever reasons,” Post said.
The Wildcats finished 2-8 this season after going 1-9 last year. It is Bush’s third season at Warren County. In his first year, the Wildcats went 7-5 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Bush said one of the biggest things the kids need to do to become better is hit the weight room harder.
“We need to work on getting people into the weight room and make sure that we are getting as much effort as possible and just try to enjoy this game,” Bush said. “We have the talent. There’s some amazing kids there. But they have to be dedicated and they have to make sure they dedicate themselves to the team and not just talk about it but be about it.”
The Wildcats averaged 306 yards per game this season and had some success, despite a tough early-season schedule. However, in the last two games the Wildcats were outscored by Central and Skyline by a combined score of 73-21.
Post said it’s disappointing the way that things ended and that he feels like Bush shouldn’t be blamed for the team’s problems.
“I just want to play,” Post said. “I don’t think our season should have ended. I think we should be traveling on Friday but obviously we’re not. It sucks, it sucks that some people quit. I don’t think their reason to quit was good. I don’t think it was a good reason. I think they just gave up on the season. Their excuse was to find someone to blame and it happened to be coach Bush.”