CHARLESTON, W.Va. - One of my editors stopped by my desk Monday afternoon and asked if I was tired or just subdued.
That's about as good of an indicator that the high school football playoffs are just around the corner as any.
From July through October, preparation and coverage of high school football accounts for the majority of man-hours at nearly every daily newspaper in West Virginia, and with good reason. It has the most participants than any single sport - prep soccer is two separate sports - and is followed by more people than any sport in the school year, especially during the fall semester.
By the beginning of November, the grind of coverage and the looming specter of basketball - also two separate sports - leave many who cover football looking as if they'd just been blind-sided by a 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker.
Yet, this is where the real fun truly begins. I related this previously explained conundrum to my editor and added that once this week - the final week of the regular season - ends, everything else typically takes care of itself on the strength of adrenaline.
The period between Nov. 10 and Dec. 7 is an entirely new season, for writers as well as football teams. Just like the 48 teams that will qualify for the postseason in the state's three competitive classes, one-by-one writers and newspapers will drop off the football beat and walk into nearby gymnasiums to immerse themselves in hoops season.
With a final weekend remaining before office managers begin fretting over road trips and overnight stays charged to company coffers and sports editors begin to work the closest thing to magic I've ever seen in organizing their staff schedules to accommodate for playoff coverage, let's take a look at what the regular season has shown us, and what we can expect to see in the next month.
Biggest surprises: George Washington (AAA), Sissonville (AA) and Man (A) - The end of the Ryan Switzer/Dustin Crouser era at GW led to plenty of pessimistic speculation regarding the Patriots' ability to remain a viable Class AAA contender.
Yet here we are in Week 11, and thanks to a running game propelled by Draven Riffe and Jacob Jackson, GW (8-1) will most likely play at least one playoff game at home, whether or not it beats Capital at home on Friday night.
Sissonville's emergence was well timed in a year when the Cardinal Conference is as down as it is, but that won't matter in third-year coach Eddie Smolder's building of a program there. Success breeds success.
The Indians (8-1) lost their top player from 2012 and a two-year starter at quarterback coming into 2013. Still, they're a win at Braxton County on Friday night away from playing host to a playoff game for the first time since 1994, when they reached the Super Six before falling to Poca. Fullback Dominic Walker - largely an unknown prior to this year - is now an All-State candidate, having run for 1,234 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Man (8-1) has been off the radar for the better part of four seasons, since the Hillbillies fell to Madonna in the 2009 Class A title game. This season, however, Coach Harvey Arms has adopted a passing attack that has given opponents fits, and Man will most likely play at least one playoff round as a host team. Quarterback John Thomas Keffer has thrown for more than 1,000 yards while receivers Tracy Jones and Cayce Mullins are among state leaders in receiving yards.