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Frank Giardina

Frank Giardina

It felt like old times when Sissonville played Riverside in football last week. I remember when Sissonville was a Class AAA school and played a Class AAA Kanawha Valley Conference schedule.

Due to being a small AAA school, winning was not easy for the Indians at that level. However, under the direction of longtime coach Joe Sawyers and assistant coach Bob Dawson Sr., the Indians were known to be a physical, hard-hitting team. Sawyers was a coaching legend in Sissonville and the football stadium bears his name.

Dawson was the father of Sissonville athlete Bobby Dawson, who would go on to be the longtime boys basketball coach at South Charleston.

n The early 1970s were a good time for quarterbacks in the Kanawha Valley. The O’Neals were winning Class AAA state titles at East Bank, Danny Williams was winning Kennedy Awards at DuPont, Billy Williams of George Washington signed with Kentucky, Sterling Price of Charleston Catholic went to WVU and Steve Chandler played well at Herbert Hoover.

One of that era’s underrated quarterbacks was Roger Pritt of Sissonville. At that time, Pritt and Sissonville played a Class AAA schedule of GW, DuPont, Dunbar, Nitro, Herbert Hoover and others.

n With a 60-game schedule and an expanded playoff, it has not felt like a traditional Major League Baseball season, but the Tampa Bay Rays continue to be an intriguing story. The low-budget Rays seem to always factor in the postseason despite having a small budget.

There is a local connection. Former Winfield and West Virginia State athlete Steve Crosier was a minor league strength and conditioning coach in the Rays system from 2009-2017. Crosier worked in nearby Princeton and also in Port Charlotte, Florida.

Despite a small payroll, Crosier is not surprised by the Rays success.

“The organization is heavy into analytics and player development,” says Crosier. “They provide tremendous support services for their minor leaguers. They will pay $50,000 for an additional nutritionist or coach at the minor league level instead of wasting money on a high-price free agent in the major leagues. They support the players that they draft, similar to how a Division I football team supports a player that they recruit.”

Crosier graduated from Winfield in 1980 before going on to play for Cal Bailey at West Virginia State. He went into the Yellowjackets Hall of Fame in 2017.

n There was a tragic accident in Putnam County on Wednesday that claimed the life of one of our state’s biggest sports fans.

Robert Searls, 74, was the owner of Teays Valley Tires in Putnam County. Everybody in the Teays Valley area knew him. He was Hurricane’s version of George Bailey from”It’s A Wonderful Life.”

Searls’ garage was a lot like Floyd’s Barber Shop in the old Andy Griffith Show. It was a gathering spot. You would see county and state political leaders, college students, high school students, lawyers, medical professionals, coaches, pastors and others congregate there.

Searls always talked to me about WVU football and basketball. He loved the Mountaineers and he knew the game.

He also loved to help people and he died trying to help a customer back out into traffic.

I looked forward to our sports visits. I will miss my friend.