NEWTOWN — There will be a huge void at this year’s Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl.
That will be the absense of John Fry.
Fry, a Mingo Central assistant, former Matewan High School assistant and ex-head coach of the West Virginia All-Star team, passed away recently at the age of 27.
Fry, the quintessential football man, had planning on assisting West Virginia head coach Joey Fields at this year’s game, scheduled for Saturday night at 8 at Mingo Central High School’s James H. Buck Harless Stadium.
Area sports fans and the Mingo Central community was shocked and saddened when Fry died on June 14, reportedly due to complications during routine surgery.
Fry was not only a staple in local high school football he was also a mainstay in the Senior Bowl, were he was 2-0 as a head coach and also 2-0 as an assistant.
“He was going to be my defensive coordinator in this game,” Coach Fields said. “I played for him at Matewan for three years. He coached me in this game and he was going to help me this year the way that we had it planned out. He was very excited about this game. This Hatfield-McCoy Bowl game always meant a lot to him. He was 4-0 in this game. He was the head coach twice and he was an assistant coach twice.”
Fry was head coach of the West Virginia All-Star team in 2009 when it won 30-12 over Kentucky. In 2008, he was also the head coach when West Virginia took a 20-12 victory over the Bluegrass State team.
* Assisting Fields this year are Hady Ford, Chase Moore, Josh Sammons, David Ledger and Bryan Allen. The support staff are Bob Hammond, Lyle Marcum and Rick Jackson.
“I’ve got a good staff. We’ve got Josh Sammons, who used to play for me who is now playing strong safety at UPike, the University of Pikeville,” Fields said. “He used to be the quarterback at Matewan and was also a North-South and Hatfield-McCoy player. We also have Chase Moore, who played at Matewan and was a four-year letterman at Glenville State College, who is now an assistant there. We also have Hady Ford, a Mingo Central assistant, who is a great guy to have around the kids. He really gets the best out of them. Also, there is David Ledger, who has 30 years of coaching experience. He was the head coach in the Senior Bowl once and was an assistant two other times.”
Fields said, other than at the youth level, this will be his first experience as a head coach.
“No one can outwork the work ethic that I have and I hope all the players will see that,” Fields said.
* Hatfield-McCoy Bowl game officials look for another big crowd at Saturday night’s 17th-annual clash between the West Virginia and Kentucky all-stars.
Attendance has always been good at the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl, which drew up to 4,000 fans at the old Tiger Stadium in Matewan.
By contrast, the North-South All-Star Classic in Charleston is struggling. Just 2,000 fans showed up last month at Charleston’s Laidley Field to watch the South beat the North 36-28 in overtime. Saturday night’s Senior Bowl attendance at Mingo Central is expected to easily surpass that.
“I told these players when I went out recruiting is that the North-South has great players but what I love about this bowl is that it’s a high school atmosphere but there’s a lot of pride on the line as it is your state against another state. It’s unique,” Coach Fields said.
*Fields said Kentucky has a sound roster for this year’s bowl game.
Kentucky, coached by Jeff Norman, has a good mix of players from Pike, Martin, Letcher, Johnson and Floyd counties. Last year, Kentucky expanded the Hatfield-McCoy map westward and southward, tapping into the rich gridiron pipelines of Bell County and Harlan, but this year it appears Kentucky has retracted back into the usual five-county region of eastern Kentucky.
The Kentucky All-Stars have eight players from state powerhouse Belfry, which lost 15-14 to Louisville Central in last year’s Class AAA state championship game. Belfry was also the 2010 state runner-ups in Kentucky as the Pirates lost 46-7 to the same Louisville Central squad.
“Kentucky has some great players this year,” Fields said. “If you have some players from Belfry and they are as good as they’ve been, you are going to have a good team. They have some great guys over there. They stayed in their area this year to get their players and I think that’s how it should be. That was good for the game last year but this is what it’s all about with the Hatfields and the McCoys.”
* It’s been a big year for the “Hatfields and the McCoys.” The History Channel miniseries of the same name, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, was a success both in TV ratings and with critics.
The Mingo/Logan area and the feud was also highlighted recently in The History Channel show “American Pickers.”
“It’s been a great year for the Hatfields and the McCoys with everything going on,” Coach Fields said.
* In addition to the football game, the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl queen will be crowned at halftime. Logan High School’s Jenna Turner, a former tennis player at LHS, is in the running for the coveted honor.
* If you can’t make it to the game, the Senior Bowl will be broadcast live on Williamson radio station WXCC 96.5 FM.