By Paul Adkins
LOGAN - This past winter, Logan High School football coach Gary Mullins was notified he had been picked to coach the West Virginia All-Stars in the annual Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl.
Then came a change of plans.
After 18 years, the feud along the border came to an end as Kentucky reportedly no longer wanted to take part in the annual high school all-star game, pitting the top graduated seniors from West Virginia against those from across the Tug in the Bluegrass State.
Senior Bowl Game Director and founder Yogi Kinder then came up with an idea.
And out of that idea came the East-West All-Star Classic.
The inaugural game is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Aug. 2 at Mingo Central High School’s Buck Harless Stadium.
Mullins, who enters his 11th season this fall as coach of the Logan Wildcats, has been retained as head coach. But instead of coaching the West Virginia All-Stars, he’ll be coaching the West All-Stars.
He’ll be oppossed by River View head coach and Gilbert native Gehrig Justice, who will coach the East All-Stars.
This year’s inaugural game will also have new color schemes — yellow and green. In past years the West Virginia All-Stars of the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl had the navy blue and gold of WVU, while the Bluegrass State team had the UK blue and white.
This year, the West will don the green and white (think Marshall), while the East will wear the yellow (think WVU).
The state, just like the North-South All-Star Game’s geographics, will be split in half.
The West will have the football-rich Charleston area and the Kanawha Valley, along with Hunington and the Southern Coalfields, theoretically all the way north to Wheeling and the Northern Panhandle.
The East has the tradition-rich football areas of Bluefield and Beckley all the way up to the Morgantown area and the Eastern Panhandle.
Most of the players, however, will come from the Charleston area and the southern part of the state.
Players from Wyoming and McDowell counties, who used to play with the West Virginia All-Stars in the Senior Bowl, will now be with the East and on opposite sides of the field from players from Logan, Mingo and Wayne counties.
Despite the change in the game format Mullins has been hard at work in the last few months in assembling his team.
“It’s looking pretty good. We’ve got 35 guys right now on the roster who are committed to play,” Mullins said. “We’ve also got three or four alternates in case somebody backs out or has a change of plans. So far, things are pretty good.”
Mullins has nabbed 13 players from Logan County to play for his West team, including: Brynden “Worm” Street, Josh Rein, Tyler Vernatter, Tyler Workman, Ty Yeager and Daniel Hanks from Logan; Cayce Mullins, Tracy Jones and Jeremiah Beavers from Man; and Brady Cox, Gabe Maynard and Matt Chapman of Chapmanville.
Mingo County is represented by four players: Alex Lee, Dakweon Willis and Brandon Blankenship of Mingo Central; and Thomas Baisden of Tug Valley.
The biggest catch for Mullins was getting Capital High School’s James Walton, a 6-foot-1, 245-pound defensive lineman and last year’s winner of the Hunt Award, given annually to the state’s best interior lineman.
Walton led Capital to an 11-2 record in 2013 and the school’s first appearance in the Class AAA playoff semifinals since 1999.
Anchoring the Cougars’ line from his defensive tackle position last fall, Walton helped Capital’s stout defense give up only an average of three yards per carry and only 4.8 yards per pass attempt. Walton was also Capital’s leading tackler as he averaged more than nine stops per game. In addition, he led Capital in sacks and tackles for loss.
Coach Mullins said he’s thrilled to have Walton on the team. He will anchor the West’s defensive unit.
“Our biggest player that we have committed if James Walton from Capital High School, who won the Hunt Award last year as the state’s best interior lineman,” Mullins said. “That was a big one. We’ve five kids from Capital, three players from Hurricane, four from Wayne, three from George Washington, two from St. Albans, three from Man, three from Chapmanville, seven from Logan, three from Mingo Central and one from Tug Valley. We have nine different schools represented.”
Another player to lookout for is Jon Alexander of George Washington High School, who will play quarterback for the West All-Stars.
“The quarterback from GW is very good. He has some unbelievable highlight tapes,” Mullins said. “He’s very smart and he’s pretty impressive.”
Mullins will be assisted on the West coaching staff by Josh Fry, Jason Davis, David Toney and Gary Mullins Sr. of Logan and Rob Dial, a former assistant coach at Chapmanville Regional High School.
Mullins said the West team is set to have a team meeting and walkthrough on Sunday at Logan. Practices will then be staggered between Logan and Scott High School in Madison so it will be a shorter drive on some days for the players from the Charleston area. Media Day is set for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Logan Football Stadium.
“We’ll start Sunday with a meeting and a walkthrough at 6 o’clock,” Mullins said. “Then we’ll go Monday at Logan, Tuesday at Scott, Wednesday at Logan, Thursday at Scott and Friday at Logan.”
Kinder, just as in years past with the Senior Bowl, will be the East-West All-Star Classic Game Director, along with Joey Fields, one of his assistants at Mingo Central High School. Fields had guided the West Virginia All-Stars to wins the last two years in the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl, including last year’s 32-7 romp.
The old Hatfield-McCoy Bowl was moved to Matewan’s old Tiger Stadium in 1996 after the Kiwanis Senior Bowl, which started in 1957, folded.
Last year was the last for the Senior Bowl with West Virginia winning the all-time series 12-6.
Now, a new tradition begins.
“This year’s game will be East versus West, splitting the state up into two parts,” Kinder said in an earlier statement. “This will be easier to get good quality coaches. Because the West Virginia teams are all on the same calendar, it really has been hard getting coaches in Kentucky because they are already busy with their high school teams.”
Kentucky schools start practice and playing earlier than their counterparts in the Mountain State.
“The Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl has been a good thing for many years,” Kinder said. “We have been planning this and talking about it for several years. Now is the right time to make the change. It will much easier to get players and coaches.”
The K-Bowl, which was played in Williamson, started back in 1957 and lasted until the mid-1980s. The only time the game wasn’t played was the summer after the disastrous 1977 flood.
Mullins has coached the Logan Wildcats since 2004.
Mullins has a good track record at Logan and has led the Wildcats to five out of the school’s six all-time playoff appearances. He indicated he would resign as Logan’s head coach near the end of last season when Logan went 7-4 and lost 41-14 at Point Pleasant in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs but ended up staying on.
The sponsor of the East-West All-Star Classic is Cliffs Naturual Resources.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at: email@example.com or by phone at 304-752-6950.)
2014 Cliffs West All-Star Football Roster
James Walton, Capital
Edmund Harvey, Capital
Jonathon Pittman, Capital
Jaissob Dyer, Capital
James Richmond, Capital
Jesse Barker, Hurricane
Jon Francis, Hurricane
Jeremy Francis, Hurricane
Eric McDaniel, St. Albans
Taylor Clark, St. Albans
Alex Lee, Mingo Central
Dakweon Willis, Mingo Central
Brandon Blankenship, Mingo Central
Gabe Maynard, Chapmanville
Brady Cox, Chapmanville
Matt Chapman, Chapmanville
Tracy Jones, Man
Jeremiah Beavers, Man
Cayce Mullins, Man
Brynden Street, Logan
Tyler Vernatter, Logan
Josh Rein, Logan
Clayton Marcum, Logan
Tyler Workman, Logan
Ty Yeager, Logan
Daniel Hanks, Logan
J.C. Maynard, Wayne
Nick Harmon, Wayne
Kurt Arthur, Wayne
Taylor Maynard, Wayne
Adam Huffman, GW
Jon Alexander, GW
Thomas Baisden, Tug Valley
Head Coach: Gary Mullins
Assistant Coaches: Josh Fry, Jason Davis, David Toney, Rob Dial, Gary Mullins Sr. - Water Girl: Brandy Mullins