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Threatening weather and canceled football games used to be a rare combination.
Not so much anymore.
East Carolina’s game at Virginia Tech was one of six scheduled for Sept. 15 that was canceled or postponed due to Hurricane Florence. Others canceled include West Virginia’s game at N.C. State and Central Florida’s game at UNC.
Two weeks earlier in the Midwest, Akron-Nebraska and South Dakota State-Iowa State were called off due to storms. The same weekend ECU’s Sept. 1 home game with North Carolina A&T was postponed a day due to thunderstorms.
“I wanted to make sure we took all the history that we had and the research that we had and make the best of it,” Montgomery said in a Monday conference call.
In 2016, Montgomery’s first season, Hurricane Matthew disrupted ECU’s travel plans following an Oct. 8 road trip to South Florida. The team’s flight home was diverted to Richmond, Va.
In 1999, Hurricane Floyd left the Pirates stranded following a win at South Carolina. Coach Steve Logan and his team stayed in Columbia until it was safe to return to Greenville. The flooding were so severe the Pirates’ next game with Miami at home had to be moved to N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
Logan, now a WRAL analyst and radio host, said on 99.9 The Fan last Friday that there were many obstacles that came up during that Columbia trip. The plan had been for the ECU football team to bus down and back, meaning the traveling party wasn’t packed for an extended stay.
“I think we were the maiden voyage for this kind of journey,” Logan said.
Going south instead of north ahead of Florence, which made landfall at Wilmington last Thursday as a Category 1 storm, put the Pirates (1-1) closer to South Florida (3-0), the team ECU plays at 8 p.m. Saturday, and far away from Greenville.
“We had to make a little bit of a longer distance than we wanted,” Montgomery said. “But at the end of the day, it was about making sure that our kids were safe.”
At least 33 people, including 26 in North Carolina, have died as a result of Hurricane Florence.
Montgomery wanted to keep his team together during the storm and to account for players connecting with their families.
“The face time (through cell phones) deals with power outages and families in hotels and different locations,” Montgomery said.
The team has been staying in an Orlando hotel and practicing on Disney World’s athletic fields. Montgomery has stuck to the normal routine of morning practices that have been followed by study hall sessions.
On the weekend, the players watched football games, including South Florida’s 25-19 win last Saturday over Illinois, on television meeting rooms. Players have only left the hotel for chaperoned team activities.
ECU quarterback Reid Herring said he is confident the players can overcome distractions taking a mental toll.
“We still have our routine; we’re just sleeping in different rooms,” said the redshirt sophomore who played at Millbrook High. “We’re very prepared and looking forward to playing Saturday.”
The Pirates left campus not knowing when they will return. ECU has since announced that classes will resume Wednesday. Montgomery said before and after each practice the team says a prayer for people back home.
‘We’re trying to go out and put together a great performance on the field for you guys,” he said. “We love every part of Eastern North Carolina.”