THE NORTH-SOUTH FOOTBALL football game was not always a summer tradition in our state. I talked with long-time state sportscaster Fred Persinger this week, and he shared that when the game first started, it was played at the end of the high school season and in many years was played on New Year's Day. It was our state's version of a New Year's Day bowl game.The game was stopped in the 1950s and re-started again in 1976 as a summer event. Because the game was not played in the 60s and early 70s, here are some great athletes from the south that missed a chance to play in the game.
Leon "Sunnybuck" Allison - A great running back at Gary District and then Gary High School, Allison would have played in the 1967 game. He led Gary to a Class AA state title, then went on to Bluefield State and then the CFL.
Charleston Catholic - Under coaches Mickey McDade and Joe Cielinsky, the Irish would have had plenty of representation in those days, with players such as Tom Bossie (Marshall), Frank Criniti (Notre Dame), Tommy Groom (Va. Tech), Sterling Price (WVU), Eddie Russell (WVU) and Terry Smoot (Va. Tech).
Jack Eastwood - A tremendous all-around athlete from Nitro, Eastwood played at WVU for four years under Bobby Bowden. He would have played in the 1972 game.
Poochie Grooms - One of the valley's all-time great names, "Poochie" was a star at Cedar Grove High School and would have played in the 1969 game.
Dennis Harrah - A tremendous offensive lineman, Harrah played his college ball at Miami (Fla.) He then had a 14-year NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams. He would have played in the 1971 game.
Hurricane Redskins - Hurricane would have had Steve Dunlap in the 1972 game, wide receiver Steve Lewis in the 1974 game, and Doc Holliday in the 1975 game. All three had outstanding playing careers at WVU. Dunlap is a long-time Mountaineer assistant coach, while Holliday is now the head coach at Marshall.
Raymond McClure - An outstanding all-around athlete at Stonewall Jackson, McClure went to Rice to play football. He would have played in the 1972 game. His classmate, Ron McCartney, would have also been in the game. He went on to be a captain at Tennessee and played in the NFL with the Rams.
Steve Morrison - A prolific, pro-style passer at Huntington East, Morrison would have played in the 1971 game. He went on to play for Woody Hayes at Ohio State on the same teams that featured two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
Oscar Patrick - A former star at the old Excelsior and Big Creek high schools in McDowell County, Patrick went on to be one of the more prolific wide receivers in WVU history. He would have played in the 1965 game. His high school teammate, Bob Gresham, a great running back at WVU, would have played the following year.
Tom Pridemore - A great athlete from Ansted High School, Pridemore was a four-year starter at WVU from 1974-78. He then had an eight-year NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons. He would have played in the 1974 game.
Quarterbacks from 1974 - If a game had been played that summer, the South could have had three highly touted quarterbacks: Don Robinson from Ceredo-Kenova, Billy Williams from George Washington, and Danny Williams from DuPont. Robinson was a high draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates and would probably have missed the game. Billy Williams went to Kentucky and Danny Williams went to WVU.
Melvin Riggins - An explosive running back at Charleston High in the mid-60s, Riggins played collegiately at Cincinnati, where he led the nation in kickoff returns.
Heywood Smith - The Dunbar running back had size and speed for Delmer Good's Bulldogs. He went on to play at WVU and would have played in the 1972 game.
Welch linemen - The Maroon Wave had several linemen that would have played in the North-South game. Center Don Roberts would have played in the early 60s before heading off to West Point to anchor the offensive line for Army. His brother, Dick, went on to play at WVU. Another lineman, C. D. Oliver, would have played in the 1971 game and also signed with WVU.
Pete Wood - A running back from Bluefield, Wood went on to be a fullback at WVU. He would have played in the 1968 game.