It was a watershed year for the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl in 2012.
The annual all-star game, pitting graduated seniors from southern West Virginia against those from eastern Kentucky, was moved last year to the state-of-the-art Buck Harless Stadium on the campus of Mingo Central High School.
With the move, two of the immediate bugaboos that had plagued the game since its inception in 1996 – often muddy fields and a lack of parking — were solved.
Buck Harless Stadium, the home of the Miners, which opened the previous fall in 2011, seemed to be the perfect host for the annual border clash.
With 5,000 seats there was plenty of room for the fans.
With unlimited parking next the stadium, which was built on a former reclaimed coal mine site, that problem was solved as well.
The playing surface – FieldTurf – was also perfect as there were no worries about bad field conditions.
The Hatfield-McCoy Bowl was played from 1996-2011 at the old Tiger Stadium at Matewan High School.
With limited parking, fans used to have to park along the road and walk up to a mile.
Rainy weather and muddy grass field conditions also seemed to dampen the bowl game at times over the years.
There still could be rain but there won’t be any mud.
The 18th-annual Hatfield-McCoy Bowl is now just around the corner. The annual summer classic is scheduled to be played on Saturday, Aug. 3 at Mingo Central – the second time the game will be held at Buck Harless Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
The West Virginia All-Stars won last year’s historic game at the new facility, 37-12, as Logan High School’s Joe Street ran for a bowl record four touchdowns.
The victory improved West Virginia to an 11-6 all-time lead in the series over the Kentucky All-Stars.
Kentucky last won the game in 2011, scoring a convincing 30-14 victory over West Virginia in the final Senior Bowl contest to be played at Matewan. The victory broke a seven-game losing skid to West Virginia in the bowl game.
The Kentucky All-Stars would like nothing more than to get back on top and beat the boys from the Mountain State. Its winning coach from 2011 – David Jones – is back to lead the Bluegrass State team. Jones, a former defensive back and wide receiver in the 2000s at the University of Kentucky, is a former Matewan and Belfry (Ky.) high school standout gridder.
The West Virginia All-Stars are going back to well with head coach Joey Fields, a Mingo Central assistant coach under Miners’ mentor and Senior Bowl Game Director Yogi Kinder. Fields hopes to work some more magic again in this year’s game. He led West Virginia to last year’s smashing victory over the Kentucky All-Stars before an estimated crowd of 4,000.
The Hatfield-McCoy Senior bowl was reorganized and brought to Matewan in 1996 by Coach Kinder. The game has its roots to the 1950s and the Kiwanis Bowl, which was played at Williamson’s Lefty Hamilton Park.
The Senior Bowl pits graduated seniors primarily from the West Virginia southern coalfield counties of Mingo, Logan, Wayne, Boone, Lincoln, Wyoming and McDowell. Players from Mingo and Logan counties usually provide the bulk of the 30-man roster each year.
Kentucky All-Star players are usually gathered from the eastern mountain counties of Pike, Martin, Floyd, Johnson and Letcher. The football hubs of Belfry, Prestonsburg, Pikeville and Paintsville’s Johnson Central high school usually bring the best players.
Two years ago, Coach Jones expanded the Hatfield-McCoy bowl map westward and southward, tapping into the football-rich areas of Bell County, Breathitt County and Harlan. Jones is doing the same this year as he has landed four Breathitt County players and a pair of Ashland gridders to go along with his base of 12 Belfry footballers and players from a handful of other schools.
Coach Fields has followed suit this year, grabbing out-of-area players from Cabell Midland, South Charleston, George Washington, Capital and Beckley Woodrow Wilson high schools.
A total of seven players from Logan County have been named to the West Virginia All-Star roster. Those are: Brant Williams, Chris Marcum, Khaleel Reynolds and Teddy Nelson from Logan; Marcus Murrell of Man; and Chapmanville Regional’s Austin Watts and Brandon White.
A total of 10 West Virginia All-Star players also took part in the North-South All-Star Classic in Charleston.
Five players from host Mingo Central are on the roster. Those are: Garth Simpkins, Israel Reynolds, Joe May, Joe Hall and Joe Jackson. Isaac Parsley and Aaron Muncy from Tug Valley will also be on the West Virginia roster. May and Parsley were all-state selections last season.
The rest of the 2013 Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl roster includes: Davon Tyson of Capital; Gage Gould of Cabell Midland; Trevon Johnson of George Washington; Brandon Thomas of Riverview; Dakota Ball of Scott; Dominic Orcutt and Trevond Reese of South Charleston; Anthony Bryant, Austin Pyles, Brandon Spurlock and James Egnor of Wayne; John Thornsbury of Westside; and Andrew Johnson and Ramon Edwards II of Beckley Woodrow Wilson.
Spurlock was one of the state’s top running backs and led Wayne to last year’s Class AA state championship last fall.
Fields will be assisted on the West Virginia coaching staff by Josh Sammons, Hady Ford, Terence Pruitt and Jacob Staton. Ricky Jackson and Lyle Marcum are on the support staff.
Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl
All-Time series (West Virginia leads 11-6):
2012: West Virginia 37, Kentucky 12
2011: Kentucky 30, West Virginia 14
2010: West Virginia 20, Kentucky 0
2009: West Virginia 30, Kentucky 12
2008: West Virginia 20, Kentucky 12
2007: West Virginia 22, Kentucky 14
2006: West Virginia 32, Kentucky 19
2005: West Virginia 7, Kentucky 6
2004: West Virginia 8, Kentucky 0
2003: Kentucky 40, West Virginia 36
2002: West Virginia 14, Kentucky 12
2001: West Virginia 14, Kentucky 6
2000: Kentucky 6, West Virginia 0
1999: Kentucky 18, West Virginia 12 (OT)
1998: Kentucky 22, West Virginia 19
1997: West Virginia 11, Kentucky 0
1996: Kentucky 7, West Virginia 0
* Games played at Matewan High School’s Tiger Stadium 1996-2011, Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium 2012-present)