A new era begins for the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl this summer.
For the first 15 years, the annual gridiron clash between the West Virginia and Kentucky all-stars was played at Matewan High School’s Tiger Stadium.
Often times, the game was played in rainy conditions, turning Matewan’s grass surface to mud in places.
But that won’t be a problem this time around.
This year’s game, set for Saturday, July 28, is scheduled to move onto the Field Turf at the brand new James H. “Buck” Harless Stadium at Mingo Central High School in Newtown. The state-of-the-art football facility and home to the Miners which opened last fall, is expected to be the permanent home of the Senior Bowl.
Matewan High School closed last year along with Williamson, Burch and Gilbert to form the new consolidated Mingo Central High School.
The West Virginia All-Stars will be coached this year by Joey Fields, a Mingo Central assistant coach.
The annual Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl pits the best graduated players from southern West Virginia against those from eastern Kentucky. Players from the southern West Virginia coal fields are gathered from Logan, Mingo, Wayne, Wyoming, Lincoln, Boone and McDowell counties.
Kentucky players are brought in mostly from Pike, Martin, Floyd, Johnson and Letcher counties.
Last year, however, Kentucky All-Star head coach David Jones, a University of Pikeville assistant coach, former University of Kentucky player and quintessential football man, went all out in his preparations for the all-star game. He expanded the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl map westward and southward, tapping into the tradition-rich pipeline of Bell County, Ky., and also into Harlan, Hazard, Morehead, Clay County and Madison, Ky.
Jones then grabbed athletic quarterback J.K. Hall of Johnson Central High School, stayed local by snatching speedy running back Jeffree Pruitt from Belfry and pieced together a couple of dominant offensive and defensive lines.
It spelled doom for West Virginia, which was simply overmatched.
Earlier in the week during practices, a West Virginia player had also unwisely predicted a 47-0 win over Kentucky.
It made the papers.
It made it to Twitter and Facebook.
Soon it was all over the internet.
With that comment, the boys from the Bluegrass only seemed to gain another measure of motivation.
West Virginia’s fate was sealed.
The result was a 30-14 win by Kentucky, snapping West Virginia’s seven-game winning steak and pulling the Bluegrass State team to within 10-6 in the all-time series. It was a 30-6 game before West Virginia scored a late touchdown and two-point conversion in the game’s final minute to make the final score look a little more respectable.
West Virginia quarterback Josh Easterling, a Chapmanville Regional High School graduate, was pressured all night long by Kentucky’s defensive line. Easterling, running out of the shotgun for much of the night, seemed to be hounded and chased as soon as he touched the ball. He was 11-for-25 passing for 160 yards and a touchdown on the night.
Kentucky outgained West Virginia 271-237 in total offense. Kentucky had 33 rushes for 184 yards and was 8-for-12 passing for 87 yards.
Hall was 7-for-11 passing for 48 yards and an interception — thrown to Logan High School’s Jason Spurlock, who made several vicious hits on defense.
Chapmanville’s Zach Maynard had an electrifying 21-yard catch-and-run when it looked like he would get brought down in the backfield. Then, most surprisingly, Maynard, a three-sport star for Chapmanville and the smallest man on the field at only 5-foot-6, ran West Virginia’s offense late in the game from the quarterback position out of the wildcat formation.
Maynard took a direct snap with 1:03 left in the game and raced all across the field and eventually went in for a 38-yard touchdown run. Maynard passed incomplete on the two-point conversion to leave the score at 30-14. He celebrated the touchdown by firing the ball into the Tiger Stadium stands.
West Virginia was also represented by Logan WR Deyonta Coleman, who was held to just one catch for 33 yards. Dustin Botsch, a former Logan and Chapmanville player, had four catches for 45 yards in last year’s Senior Bowl.
On the ground, West Virginia was held to 24 rushes for 77 yards. Maynard led the way with two carries for 41 yards. Taking away the two rushes, West Virginia only had a woeful 36 yards on 22 carries.
Last year’s bowl game was under the first-year corporate sponsorship of Community Trust Bank. The game was sponsored by Massey Energy from 1996-2010.
Host school Mingo Central is mourning the death of assistant coach John Fry, who died last week at the age of 27. He was reportedly picked to be on this year’s West Virginia All-Star coaching staff.
Fry had previously been the head coach of the West Virginia All-Stars. He was last the head coach in 2009 when West Virginia won 30-12 over Kentucky.