Frank Giardina

Frank Giardina

Earlier this week, the announcement was made that Mercer County and the cities of Bluefield and Princeton were going to make a bid on hosting the state high school Super Six football championship games.

The announcement reminded me of the last time that Bluefield hosted a football state title game. It was the fall of 1975 and Bluefield played South Charleston for the Class AAA championship.

Bluefield was coached by John Chmara while South Charleston was coached by Homer Criddle and featured future WVU and NFL running back Robert Alexander, who was a junior. On a cold afternoon, Bluefield, led by senior running back Donnie Jackson, won the game 20-6.

The loss did not diminish the accomplishment of a special season for South Charleston. After a dismal football period in the early 1970s, the Black Eagles were thrilled to go 9-1 in the regular season. South Charleston defeated Kanawha County teams Herbert Hoover (42-0), DuPont (27-13), Sissonville (62-8), Charleston (14-0), St. Albans (24-6) and Nitro (28-0). They also defeated Dunbar 26-0 and defending AAA state champ Stonewall Jackson 26-15. The only loss was a 14-12 loss to George Washington at a packed Oakes Field. The GW quarterback was longtime Charleston attorney Scott Long.

In the semifinal round of the playoffs, the Black Eagles blasted Parkersburg South 49-8 in Parkersburg. The game was so one-sided that after the game the South head coach wanted to fight Criddle. Criddle, a former Marine and WVU football player, suggested to the opposing coach that he might want to reconsider that plan.

Also, in 1975, Alexander was becoming a national name. He would eventually be named a high school All-American and become a national recruiting target.

To the delight of the state’s football fans, Alexander decided to play at WVU, selecting the Mountaineers over Ohio State, Penn State and USC. He would rush for 2,456 yards at WVU and would play briefly in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams.

The South Charleston quarterback was Steve Jones. Sadly, he tore his ACL and missed the playoff and championship game.

Other standouts for the Black Eagles were linebacking twins John and Bill Withrow, linemen Mike Miller, Clint Bowyer, Clint Swan, Curt Seagraves, Mike McMillen, Bruce Gallagher and Robbie Wick. Donnie Woolwine was a running back and defensive back and Dan Polcari was a bruising fullback-linebacker. Mark Solomon stepped in at quarterback replacing Jones.

The nose guard was Greg McCollam, who would go on to work in pro sports with the Indiana Pacers and Cincinnati Reds. He now also pastors a church in Cincinnati.

Criddle had a small staff. His assistant coaches were “the old Pro” Marvin Richardson, A.J. Fields, Vic Green and Jim Fout.

The mid-1970s were a fun time for high school football in our region. Ii was pre-consolidation and cable television. Crowds were large, marching bands were big and high school football Friday nights were special. In our state, Alexander was a national name and future NFL players Curt Warner and Carl Lee were about to appear on the scene.

In 1975, Bluefield won the AAA state title, Ceredo-Kenova defeated Sherman for the AA crown and Ridgeley defeated Wirt County for the Class A crown. Bluefield is now AA and C-K and Ridgeley are gone.