One of the saddest aspects about life in our state in the last 50 years has been the disappearance of many community high schools.
During the pandemic, with no live sports, I find myself reflecting on sports the way it used to be in the state. Here are some schools that no longer exist. The schools may not exist, but I will always remember some of the star athletes.
CHARLESTON HIGH: The downtown Charleston High was a true melting pot of society. I did not see the early stars like Mark Workman, but I did see great names such as basketball’s Curtis Price and Mike Jones, and football stars such as Melvin Riggins, Mike Tyson, Chuck Green, William King and Rick Hurt.
DUNBAR: When Dunbar High School was open, no team looked forward to playing the Bulldogs. Names such as Melvin Walker, Jim Woodall, Heywood Smith and coach Delmer Good were legendary names in the valley.
DUPONT: Our state has never seen a better athlete than Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss. NBA star Jason Williams is a basketball icon and won a championship with Miami. Before those two, the school legend was football QB Danny Williams. He won two Kennedy Awards and was a Rhodes Scholar while playing for Bobby Bowden at West Virginia University.
EAST BANK: No school in our state has produced a more beloved athlete than East Bank’s Jerry West.
HUNTINGTON EAST: There are two names that stand out in Highlander history: Johnny Frye and Jerry Phillips. Frye won the Kennedy Award in football and played basketball at Duke. Phillips was a state track champ and went to WVU for football.
MULLENS: The nickname of the athletic teams was “Rebels”. That might not be politically correct today. In many ways, Mullens was the basketball capital of the state producing such names as Willie Akers, Jerome Anderson, Herbie Brooks, Mike D’Antoni and Danny D’Antoni, Don Nuckols and Greg White.
NORTHFORK: Under coach Jennings Boyd, the Blue Demons made national sports news from 1974-81 by winning eight straight AA state basketball titles. Northfork had many great players. Former basketball player Russell Todd went on to star for Gale Catlett at WVU. Former player Antonio Martin was a standout for Tex Williams at the University of Charleston. Former football-basketball player “Duck” Riley, played football at WVU. Former football star Tom Beasley played at Virginia Tech and won two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
STONEWALL JACKSON: State championships were won in football, boys basketball, baseball, boys track and girls basketball. Older fans still remember names like “Sugar Bear” Lyles, “Hoppy” Shores, Gay Elmore, Walter Easley, Darrell Denson, Wayne Casey, Robert Sanders and Valetta “Wee Wee” Johnson.
WELCH: The town in McDowell County is barely hanging on, but at one time Welch was a major AAA school. The Maroon Wave is one of the state’s more unique nicknames. Jimmy Smithberger won the 1963 Kennedy Award and went on to play on Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship team.