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By Staff | Nov 28, 2018

The 2018 West Virginia State Football Championships are heading into the final week with only 12 of 48 teams remaining. We’ve been making our picks here at the local county papers, and so far coach extraordinaire Vance Ash has held the lead. Before he gets too big-headed, let me point out that he’s known to be a winner and hates to lose. Right behind is veteran sports writer Bruce Crawford. I’m right behind Bruce, and way behind us all is Sports enthusiast R.J. Goode.

Week one was a killer for R.J., who missed six. I missed four; Bruce missed two, and Vance – after he looked at all of our choices – missed one. Week two was much better with Ed and Vance each missing one, and Bruce and R.J. both dropping a pair. Week three probably put Vance over the top as he got them all. R.J. did Goode missing only one while your two sportswriters both dropped a pair. So, Vance is leading heading into this weekend with only two misses, R. J. has been wrong on nine, Ed has missed five and Bruce has missed six.

I think it would be good to stack us up against the folks at the daily papers just once. I could have done better the first two weeks, but I went with my heart instead of my head. Bruce did very well, and R.J.- not so “Goode.” Vance cheated. So, there you have it. Get your county papers to keep up on this; there’s one week to go and looks like Coach Ash will pull it out with your’s truely coming in second.

Now on to some real sports talk. I saw a nice story the other day on Facebook about Nick Saban and the Monongah Lions’ 1968 state championship game versus Paden City. ESPN put out the article, and although it was mostly about Saban, there was a hint of prejudice against the Wildcats.

The talk about the rain, muddy field conditions, and Mother Nature slowing down the Lions was way off track. I remember that game very well, and if you look at the action picture in the article, you can plainly see three Wildcats on the ground covered in mud. They had broken through the Lions’ defense and were after Saban – who stepped up in the pocket to avoid the sack. I would have to say both teams had great work ethic, but the field was not a difference maker. These were two teams who were very much alike.

Looking back, the Wildcats also had a high-powered offense and a dingy defense. They were also used to playing a little over half a game because of lopsided scores.

I love the way they told the story. Fairmont East West Stadium was a mess. The game drew a large crowd of people, and being a home game for Monongah, it did not keep the Wildcat faithful away. The bleachers were full, and both sidelines packed for what proved to be the high school game of the year. Yes, the Lions did claim the win, 21-12.

However, it was not the field that held them down, but the never-quit defense of the Wildcats.

We all remember those salt tablets and discipline. Earl Keener, the coach of Monongah, had nothing over Paden City’s head coach Hen Healy. For the Wildcats, it was pads everyday, hard hitting, and two-a-day practices as well. Everything said in the story about Keener can be applied to Healy as well.

While the Lions had Saban, Marbury, Charlie Miller, and Hulderman, the Wildcats countered with Dennis (Dink) Blatt, a Syracuse recruit who played fullback for the Orange; Mike Nelson, who was at WVU with Marbury and during his junior year scored the only touchdown on the ground all year against Penn State – when they played at the old Mountaineer field. The ‘Cats also had Norm Trowbridge and Steve Stackhouse, who both played Division 1.

Several years ago on a trip back from Fairmont, I stopped at a coffee shop in Mannington. That’s where I ran into Monongah’s 1968 running back, Miller. Not knowing who I was talking to, I brought up the subject of the 1968 game.

He said, “I played in that game, and I’ll tell you, we were in a dog fight for the first time all year. Paden City had the momentum, but Kerry broke it. That was a game which could have gone either way. I will tell you something, I had never been hit as hard in my career as I was when I tried to run off tackle, and a fellow named Gallo put me quickly on my back.”

“That would be Frank,” I said.

“Yes sir, that was him,” he responded.

The two teams met again in 1969 in Parkersburg with Monongah, again, getting the win, 20-0. Paden City didn’t like that very well and came back the following year (1970) to win the Class A championship over Bishop Donahue. There’s a newspaper clipping, from the Wetzel County paper and of the championship win that year, hanging on the wall near the Wildcats gym, and on the same page is the story of the Marshall University Plane Crash.

It’s going to be a big weekend up at Wheeling Island starting Friday and finishing on Saturday. The six football teams remaining will battle it out for the W.Va State Championship in all three classes. It’s always some great football, and this year looks to be more of the same. It sure would be nice to see a packed stadium. This is one time of the year you get the opportunity to go watch some of the teams you dislike the most.

WVU basketball appears to be in for a long season, but hopefully Coach Huggins can perform some of his magic and get the team turned around. Once they get into Big 12 play, they better step it up a notch, or it will be lights out. The turnovers, lack of a press, poor shooting and sloppy play has been a killer so far. Let’s hope things change, and we get on track. It’s been disappointing so far.

I want to send congratulations out to Josey Jones and JoLee Walton on making first team All-State. Those are two of the best players in the whole state and are certainly worthy of the honor. Also, congratulations goes out to Paden City sophomore Hope Weber, for her selection on the second team All-State squad. Hope is a dedicated volleyball player who works on her game year round.

High school basketball has already started, so fight off the weather and get out and support your favorite team. There is something going on nearly every night of the week, so no excuse not to go watch some good high school basketball or wrestling.