When it comes to high school football, coaches like to keep their weekly schedules and preparations the same throughout the course of the season.

For head coach J.L. Abbott, there are two instances when his West Fairmont squad will have to deal with both a shorter than normal and longer than normal week.

The first of those two is this week as the Polar Bears host their home opener at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Preston at East-West Stadium.

Originally scheduled for Thursday night, the game was pushed back two days because of West Virginia University’s nationally televised football contest against rival Maryland.

“If we would have played (that) night, we would have had two teams and the coaching staffs,” Abbott said. “Those are the only ones who would have been here because everyone was up at the WVU game. I would have had to flip a coin over that one.”

Dealing with a longer week is not something Abbott particularly likes, but he and his coaching staff have made every effort to make it seem like tonight’s game is actually Friday night.

“I think our kids believe (yesterday) is Thursday, honestly,” he said. “And (today) is just a Faculty Senate day.”

Regardless of what day it is, West is just hoping to rebound from a 1-2 start to a highly anticipated season.

And while the Polar Bears received good news this week with the medical clearance and return of junior tailback Jerry Kelly, another injury sidelined Kelly’s backup.

Jordan Tucker, who rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns in Kelly’s absence the past two and a half games, suffered a high ankle sprain at practice Thursday.

“He got rolled up on,” Abbott said. “He’s in a walking cast right now.”

As for Kelly, he’ll suit for the first time since the season opener against Robert C. Byrd, which upset West 21-7.

Kelly rushed for 38 yards on 7 carries, but suffered a sprained shoulder when getting pinned underneath a defensive pile-up in the second quarter of that game.

Now he’s ready to help the Polar Bears get back on track.

“Jerry is ready to go, and he looks great,” Abbott said. “He’s excited to be back. And the kids are excited for him to be back.”

With Tucker out, Kelly will likely carry the workload in the backfield.

Kelly totaled 1,013 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 148 carries as a sophomore last year.

Following last season’s success and this year’s injury keeping Kelly in street clothes, Abbott is ready to unleash Kelly’s talents against the Knights.

“Jerry is just the type of player who knows he doesn’t have to prove anything. He just likes to play football and play hard,” Abbott said. “He doesn’t have anything to prove to us or anyone we play. But Jerry likes to play hard. He’s a ball player.”

Preston also enters the game with a 1-2 record, but the Knights have dropped two straight after opening the season with a 41-28 win over Buckhannon.

The Knights have consecutive losses to Bridgeport (31-0) and Elkins (38-20).

“They are a good-sized team, the kids are disciplined and they play hard,” Abbott said. “We’re going to get through (today). And then we’re off for two weeks.”

Following tonight’s game, West will take advantage of an early bye week before playing at University High on Sept. 29.

And up until Tucker’s injury, Abbott thought his team’s off week was too early. Now it’s just right.

“I’ve been talking the last couple weeks, wishing our bye week was later in the year,” he said. “At about 4:30 p.m. (Thursday), I was glad it’s next week.”

E-mail Andrew Manzo at dmanzo@timeswv.com.

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