High school all-star football is treading into new waters this summer.
For the last 18 years there was the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl, pitting the top graduated seniors from the southern West Virginia Coalfields against their counterparts from the eastern Kentucky mountain counties.
The game served as the unofficial kickoff to the football season.
But with Kentucky no longer wanting to play in the game, reportedly due to a lack of interest and growing tired of always playing the game on the West Virginia side of the Tug, game officials had to come up with something new.
Out of this, the East-West All-Star Classic was born.
Instead of the Hatfields and the McCoys having another border feud, it will be an in-state battle as some of the top players from West Virginia will gather on Saturday night at Mingo Central High School’s Buck Harless Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
Both teams were set to hold its first practices on Monday — the West All-Stars at the Logan High School Football Stadium and the East at Princeton.
The West is coached by Logan’s own Gary Mullins. Putting on the headsets for the East All-Stars is Gehrig Justice of River View.
Coach Mullins said he has put together a good roster — a blend of players from the southern Coalfields and a hand-picked bunch from the Kanawha Valley.
“All of these players are very good,” Mullins said. “This roster is full with great athletes, with great offensive linemen, great defensive linemen and great skilled people. It would be a dream to have all of these guys on one team during the regular season. I think this team wouldn’t have had that many problems (in getting to Wheeling). The kids from Capital are unbelievable when you look at their highlights.”
Mullins said the East will be no slouches either, with several players coming from tradition-rich Bluefield along with several gridders from Wyoming East and Westside.
“They will have a great team and I’m looking forward to it,” Mullins said.
The game directors are Yogi Kinder, the Mingo Central High School head coach and Joey Fields, one of his assistants with the Miners. Kinder also ran the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl the last 18 years.
Mullins said he hopes the game can take off fast this year and grow.
“I think from all of the kids that I’ve talked to they are even more excited to play because they will be playing against in-state players,” Mullins said. “A lot of them have never played against each other. I think this game will grow. Coach (Yogi) Kinder did a great job with it when it was the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl. I know they have big plans for this game. I can see it growing bigger and bigger every year. We’ve already had a great response this year.”
Mullins said Mingo Central’s Harless Stadium is the perfect host for the new all-star game. This summer will mark the third time a prep all-star game will be played at the Miners’ home. The Hatfield-McCoy Bowl was played at Matewan’s Tiger Stadium from 1996-2011 before being moved on top of the mountain at Mingo Central in 2012.
Mullins was last seen at Mingo Central last October as his Logan Wildcats lost 26-20 to the Miners on a freezing cold 38-degree, rainy night.
Harless Stadium holds 5,000 fans and at least 4,000 gathered for last year’s Hatfield-McCoy Bowl.
Tournament officials are hoping for a similar crowd on Saturday night.
“It’s one of the best facilities in the state,” Mullins said of Harless Stadium. “It’s going to be odd for us because we might actually get a chance to go up there and play when it’s warm. I’m so happy to be able to coach in this game. We’ll give it our best effort.”
The West All-Stars will be represented locally by 14 players from Logan County schools, including: Matt Chapman of Chapmanville Regional; Tracy Jones, Jeremiah Beavers, Cayce Mullins and Thomas Holt of Man High School; and Brynden Street, Tyler Vernatter, Josh Rein, Clayton Marcum, Tyler Workman, Ty Yeager, Daniel Hanks, Jacob Vance and Jody Butcher of Logan.
As is the case with all-star football, rosters are often times fluid.
There were some changes in the West roster over the weekend.
Added to the roster were Man’s Holt, Logan’s Vance and Butcher and Michael Belcher of Scott High School.
Chapmanville’s Brady Cox and Gabe Maynard, Hurricane High School’s Jesse Barker, Jon Francis and Jeremy Francis and Wayne High School’s Taylor Maynard have opted out and are no longer on the roster.
Mingo Central is represented by three players — Alex Lee, Dakweon Willis and Brandon Blankenship.
George Washington’s Austin Giacamo and Capital’s Clifton Pratt — both wide receivers and defensive backs — were last-minute additions to the roster. Both were on the field on Monday during practice.
The West team is scheduled to practice at Scott High School on Tuesday night, then back at Logan on Wednesday. Another practice is scheduled at Scott on Thursday. The final workout is slated for Friday night at Logan.
The game is being sponsored by Cliffs Natural Resources.
For many of the players it will be the last time they will play in a football game.
The weather for Saturday night’s game in Newtown calls for a high temperature of 82 degrees and a low of 61. There is a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms.
Bad weather often plagued the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl when it was played at Matewan on the Tiger Stadium grass.
Harless Stadium, however, has Field Turf so field conditions will not be a problem.
Located nearly 2,000 feet in elevation, it’s often up to seven degrees cooler on top of the mountain at Mingo Central.
Two years ago when the Senior Bowl was first played at Mingo Central, southern West Virginia was experiencing a heat wave with temperatures in the 90s.
But on top of the mountain at Harless Stadium it cooled down quickly after the sun set. By the end of the game, it was 70 degrees and a stiff, cool, autumn-like breeze blew into the stadium.
2014 Cliffs West All-Star
James Walton, Capital
Edmund Harvey, Capital
Jonathon Pittman, Capital
Jaissob Dyer, Capital
James Richmond, Capital
Clifton Pratt, Capital
Eric McDaniel, St. Albans
Taylor Clark, St. Albans
Alex Lee, Mingo Central
Dakweon Willis, Mingo Central
Brandon Blankenship, Mingo Central
Matt Chapman, Chapmanville
Tracy Jones, Man
Jeremiah Beavers, Man
Cayce Mullins, Man
Thomas Holt, Man
Brynden Street, Logan
Tyler Vernatter, Logan
Josh Rein, Logan
Clayton Marcum, Logan
Tyler Workman, Logan
Ty Yeager, Logan
Daniel Hanks, Logan
Jacob Vance, Logan
Jody Butcher, Logan
J.C. Maynard, Wayne
Nick Harmon, Wayne
Kurt Arthur, Wayne
Adam Huffman, GW
Jon Alexander, GW
Austin Giacamo, GW
Michael Belcher, Scott
Head Coach: Gary Mullins
Assistant Coaches: Josh Fry, Jason Davis, David Toney, Rob Dial, Gary Mullins Sr.