It is a good day to remember a couple of high school athletic greats from the upper end of the Kanawha Valley.
Former East Bank athlete Mike Kitchen is in a battle trying to recover recovering from a battle with COVID-19. Kitchen transferred into East Bank in the early 1960s from Van High School in Boone County.
In the fall of 1964, Kitchen quarterbacked the Pioneers to the Class AAA state football championship with a 6-0 win over the Pony Express version of Huntington High School.
That game was played at the old Laidley Field in Charleston. It was a tough battle that was played on a bitterly cold, frigid day. The overused Laidley Field was bare, had very little grass, and the playing field was concrete hard.
After football season, Kitchen also excelled in basketball and baseball at East Bank. He later worked at the DuPont plant in Belle, where he competed for years in competitive softball leagues. One of his coworkers, Rick Howard, said. “Mike was such a good athlete that when he played softball, you really did not need a shortstop and a third baseman. You put him on the left side of the infield and he played both positions.”
The battle with COVID has been challenging for Kitchen. Here’s hoping he has turned the corner
One of the best running backs in the history of the old Kanawha Valley Conference is a unique name from a forgotten school.
Donald “Poochie” Grooms was a mystical figure when he played at Cedar Grove High School in the late 1960s.
He was a mystery to many fans in Kanawha County because they rarely saw him play. KVC football fans heard about him, read about him and sang songs about him. However, most never saw him play even though he had the coolest nickname in the Valley.
“Poochie” led the county in scoring as a junior (1967) and senior (1968), establishing records both years.
College coaches knew about him. Former WVU assistant coach Bobby Bowden thought he could help the Mountaineers at a skill position on either side of the ball. Grooms was 6-foot-2, 175 pounds and ran a 4.3 or 4.4 40-yard dash, which was unheard of in 1968. He was a taller Kerry Marbury, who helped WVU in the early 1970s.
Marshall head coach Perry Moss eagerly wanted him. It was fortunate that he did not go there as he probably would have been on the 1970 plane that crashed.
In the late 1960s, Cedar Grove football was tucked away in the eastern end of Kanawha County. The Trailblazers were also a Class AA school and had to venture out of the county to find other AA teams.
They would play East Bank, DuPont and Charleston Catholic, but they also played Sherman, Shady Spring and Montgomery.
Cedar Grove is gone now. It became a part of DuPont in the fall of 1970. Respected coach and administrator Forrest Mann was the head coach. Prior to Grooms’ senior year, the Trailblazers also produced Jim Auxier, who went to WVU.
It has been over 50 years, but the older fans in that part of the Valley still talk about “Poochie” Grooms.