In year’s past Logan County players have formed the backbone of the West Virginia All-Star roster in the annual Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl.
It could be that way again as 12 county players have signed up to play in the bowl, which is set to be played on Saturday, July 28 at 8 p.m. at the new James H. “Buck” Harless Stadium at Mingo Central High School in Newtown.
The Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl pits the top graduated seniors from southern West Virginia against those from eastern Kentucky.
Although West Virginia lost last year’s game 30-12 at Matewan to snap the team’s seven-game winning streak, the Mountain State All-Stars still lead 10-6 in the all-time series.
Chapmanville Regional and Logan High School are sending five players each to play for the West Virginia All-Stars, while Man has two.
From Chapmanville, linemen Caleb Belcher, Thomas Belcher, John Toler and Michael Watts have signed up as well as wide receiver/defensive back Tyler Killen. Thomas Belcher and Toler played for the South All-Stars in last month’s North-South All-Star Classic in Charleston.
Representing Logan in the game are running back Joe Street, linemen Matt Southers, Tyler Nelson and Marc Morris and linebacker/tight end Zach Ellis.
Street, who has signed on to play collegiate football at the University of Charleston, rushed 13 times for 76 yards and scored two touchdowns on runs of 7 and 6 to lead the South All-Stars to a 36-28 overtime win over the North in last month’s North-South Game. Street’s 7-yard TD in overtime was the game-winner.
Morris, at 6-foot-8, 280 pounds, gives West Virginia some size along the line with Southers (6-4, 250) and Toler (6-3, 305).
From Man are quarterback Shane Browning and fullback Jimmy Duba.
Also named to the West Virginia roster are nine players from homestanding Mingo Central — Ashton Cline, R.J. Collins, Austin Compton, Alex Daniels, Corey Daniels, Nick Lee, Austin Reed, Matt Wellman and Jacob Staton.
John Bailey, Leshon Benton, Brad Hardy, Kane McReynolds and Cody Stevens are representing River View High School.
From Wayne are Allen Bryant, Clay Haddix and Paden Thompson.
Thomas Forren and twin brother running backs Dustin Tilley and Justin Tilley come from Westside.
Hatfield-McCoy all-star players are gathered from the coal field counties of Logan, Mingo, Wayne, Boone, Wyoming, Lincoln and McDowell counties. No players from Boone or Lincoln, however, have signed up.
Kentucky all-star gridders mainly come from Pike, Martin, Floyd, Letcher, Johnson and Lawrence counties.
Fields, a Mingo Central assistant coach, said he’s happy to lead the West Virginia team this year. He is coaching the game with a heavy heart, however, following the recent passing of Miners’ assistant coach and former Hatfield-McCoy coach John Fry, who was just 27.
“It am very excited to have the opportunity to coach the 2012 Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl,” Fields said. “I have grown up around the Senior Bowl and it is an awesome feeling to have the chance to not only play in the game but to be a coach as well. I coach this game with a heavy heart, not only did I play in the Senior Bowl for Coach John Fry but he was going to assist me in this year’s game. I plan on coaching this game with the same enthusiasm and passion that Coach Fry did. I am really looking forward to coaching these talented players from our area. I have coached against some of these players and it feels good to have them on my team instead of having to prepare for them.”
Fields said the Chapmanville contingency is a good one.
“Both Thomas Belcher and John Toler from Chapmanville played in the North-South Game and I was very impressed by their performance,” Fields said. “They are two hard-nosed kids that can play for anyone. Caleb Belcher, Tyler Killen and Michael Watts are all good players who helped Chapmanville in their successful season.”
Fields said the players from Logan will also help his team out a lot. Logan went 8-3 last season and hosted its first Class AAA playoff game since 1990.
“Logan had the most talent they’ve had in years,” Fields said. “Joe Street also played in the North-South All-Star Game and after watching his performance I am excited to see what he will do in the Senior Bowl. The Wildcats also had tough offensive linemen with Matt Southers, Tyler Nelson and Marc Morris that contributed to Logan’s playoff appearance.”
Browning and Duba of Man are also on the squad.
“They are two tough kids that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years,” Fields said.
Fields said the trio of players from Westside will also help.
“Westside’s Thomas Forren, and Dustin and Justin Tilley were solid players for the Renegades throughout their careers. All three of these guys can play any position on the field,” he said.
The players from the Class AA state champion Wayne Pioneers will also be key, Fields said.
“I was able to watch Wayne’s Clay Haddix, Paden Thompson and Allen Bryant, who also made an appearance in the North-South Game, in this year’s Class AA state championship game and was impressed with how hard Coach Harmon’s players compete for all four quarters. You couldn’t ask for three better players in a game like this,” Fields said.
River View’s players could also be key in this year’s Senior Bowl.
“John Bailey and Leshon Benton of River View will be huge factors for us on both sides of the ball,” Fields said. “Brad Hardy, Cane McReynolds and Cody Stevens are three tough offensive linemen that will help us throughout the game.”
Fields, of course, is very familiar with his Mingo Central group of players. The Miners went 5-5 last fall in their first season of football. Mingo Central is expected to join Chapmanville and six other teams in the Cardinal Conference in 2013.
“When Coach Kinder asked me to coach this year’s Senior Bowl I was eager to be out on the field with my former Mingo Central players one last time,” he said. “Ashton Cline, another player who participated in the North-South Game, is not only a great football player but a great person. Austin Reed, Jacob Staton, Corey Daniels, Alex Daniels and R.J. Collins have all been fantastic players from their freshman to senior years. Staton, Reed, Daniels and Collins are very versatile on the field. Austin Compton, Matt Wellman and Nick Lee are players that I expect to contribute to our West Virginia team in all aspects.”
Kickoff for the game is right around the corner.
Each year the bowl serves as the unofficial kickoff to the new high school grid season. Practices are allowed to begin in West Virginia the following Monday on July 30. Kentucky usually begins its prep football practices a couple of weeks earlier.
“July 28 can’t come soon enough,” Fields said. “With the roster I have at hand, along with our opponents from Kentucky, I am sure this will be a very entertaining game for the players and the fans.”
This year’s Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl will be the first played on Field Turf at the new Mingo Central field.
From 1996-2011 the game was played on the grass surface at Matewan High School’s Tiger Stadium. When Matewan closed its doors and consolidated with Williamson, Gilbert and Burch to form Mingo Central High School, the game was moved this year to Newtown.
Last year’s game was the last Senior Bowl at Matewan. It was played there because the new Mingo Central facility was not yet finished.
Mingo Central football coach Danny “Yogi” Kinder is the founder of the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl and still serves as the game director.
The first Senior Bowl was played in 1996 as Kentucky won 7-0 over West Virginia.
Kentucky held the upper hand in the series until 2003 when the Bluegrass state boys won in a 40-36 shootout.
West Virginia then claimed seven straight Senior Bowl wins from 2004-2010 before getting blown out last year.
So far, rosters for the Kentucky All-Star team have not yet been released.