NEWTOWN — It was an eventful East-West All-Star Classic to say the least.
Just about everything happened on top of the mountain at Mingo Central High School’s Buck Harless Stadium as the inaugural East-West All-Star Classic football game was played on a bizarre Saturday night in Newtown.
There were probably only two things that didn’t happen.
Even though it was very cool, even autumn-like as temperatures dipped below 60 degrees at the game’s end, it didn’t snow.
That was good.
It’s August, folks, but it didn’t feel like it. It’s gotta be global warming.
Also, no aliens landed in a UFO on top of the former surface coal mine site.
But just about everything else did happen though, on this wild night.
It was a night of fog, fights, flags and, oh yes, football.
It made for an interesting evening.
The West All-Stars, led by Logan High School football coach Gary Mullins, beat the East, 35-0, in the first ever meeting of graduated senior all-star gridders from across the state of West Virginia.
The East-West All-Star Classic this summer replaced the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl, which was played at Matewan/Mingo Central from 1996-2013 and pitted graduated senior gridders from West Virginia against those from across the Tug in Kentucky.
The Senior Bowl game was discontinued only in recent months as Kentucky reportedly no longer wanted to play.
So, on Saturday night, a new tradition was born.
What a way to get it going.
An eventful opener?
That’s saying it mildly.
First, let’s deal with the fog.
After several hours of rain leading up to kickoff, the skies cleared and the sun shined bright on the drying Mingo Central Field Turf.
It was a pretty, picturesque sunset up on top of the mountain.
It looked like the weather might hold.
But that was spoken too soon.
After only four snaps on the West’s opening drive, a mysterious and eerie fog rolled into the stadium.
The fog thickened in a remarkably short amount of time, rolling over in waves, almost like clouds high up in the sky.
It wasn’t “as thick as pea soup,” but it eventually made it difficult for the fans in the stands to see the action on the field.
A one point, even the P.A. announcer and scoreboard operator had to ask if the West’s two-point conversion was indeed good as the referee’s arms signaling a score were unable to be seen high up in the pressbox in the fog’s near white-out conditions.
The fog was reminiscent, for those of you football fans old enough to remember, of the infamous “Fog Bowl,” the NFL playoff game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles on New Year’s Eve 1988 at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
The fog soon rolled out of Buck Harless Stadium but then returned, uninvited, late in the second quarter.
Mingo Central’s Alex Lee somehow was able to make a remarkable 37-yard touchdown catch in the “Fog Part II” from West quarterback Jon Alexander of George Washington High School with three seconds left as the West All-Stars took a 15-0 lead.
The West’s Josh Rein of Logan, on a faked PAT attempt, connected with Lee on the two-point conversion.
It was a great play and it gave the West momentum heading into the locker room.
Problem was, no one really saw it.
It remains to be seen if any of the East All-Stars out there on the field even saw it.
Lee certainly did.
The fog stayed around until halftime and into the third quarter but then more or less fizzled out a second time as the game came to a close.
Then there was the second “F.”
After taking a 22-0 lead with an Alexander-to-James Richmond TD pass, the West soon made it 28-0 as James Walton, last year’s Hunt Award winner as the state’s top interior lineman, scooped up an East fumble and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
En route to the end zone, East QB T.J. Smith of Summers County High School, then appeared to spear a West player. Walton flipped the football back at Smith in protest and players from both sides began to push and shove each other.
In a few moments, it was a full-out fracas as both benches cleared.
The fight was soon over and the coaches and referees were able to restore some assemblance of order.
With 4:55 left in the third quarter, game officials allowed the game to continue after a brief discussion. When play resumed, Logan’s Daniel Hanks tacked on the extra point kick and it was 29-0 West.
Then there were the flags, the third “F,” if you will.
There were plenty of those — 17 in total — but that’s to be expected in all-star football at any level.
But then there was the football itself.
The football talent was outstanding on both sides as top athletes from the southern part of the state took part in the inaugural clash.
There was some razzle-dazzle, too, as expected, as Coach Mullins reached deep into his Logan Wildcat playbook to pull out some magic.
The first use of trickery came on the West’s second drive as Alexander zipped a pass to the East 17-yard line to Austin Giacomo (George Washington) on a fourth-and-12 play at the 23. Giacomo then pitched to a streaking Richmond in the hook-and-lateral play and Richmond raced down the sideline into the end zone for a touchdown to make it 7-0.
The West used the hook-and-lateral again just before the half as Richmond went for a 27-yard gainer.
The West All-Stars scored its last touchdown of the night with 5:00 left in the game as Logan’s Brynden “Worm” Street scored on a 3-yard touchdown run.
Man High School’s Cayce Mullins played some at quarterback late in the game, connecting on a 13-yard pass to former Hillbillies’ teammate Tracy Jones.
Jody Butcher, a former Logan lineman and wearing number 66 for the green-clad West All-Stars, also played some at QB in the closing minutes of the game.
Logan’s Rein also played well, making several catches on the offensive end. On one of his catches that went for 24 yards to the 1-yard line it looked like he might have gotten into the end zone.
On the West staff was some of Coach Mullins’ LHS assistants, including Josh Fry, Jason Davis, David Toney and his dad, Gary Mullins Sr. Former Chapmanville assistant coach Rob Dial was also on the staff.
Mullins nabbed 14 players from Logan County to play for his West team, including: Street; Butcher; Rein, Jacob Vance; Clayton Marcum; Tyler Vernatter, Tyler Workman, Ty Yeager and Hanks from Logan; Cayce Mullins, Jones, Thomas Holt and Jeremiah Beavers from Man; and Matt Chapman of Chapmanville.
The East All-Stars were coached by River View High School’s Gehrig Justice.
* The Offensive MVP’s were: the East’s Devin Allen of Princeton High School; and the West’s Richmond.
The Defensive MVP’s were: the East’s Erik Lindsey of Summers County; and the West’s Walton, who is headed to play Division II college football at Shepherd University.
Four scholarship awards were also handed out to Street, Jon Pittman of Capital High School, Brian Whitt of Wyoming East; and Brennan Wheeler of Bluefield High School.
* Cliffs Natural Resources was the main sponsor of the game.
* Abby Hensley of Chapmanville Regional High School was named at halftime as the first-ever East-West All-Star Classic Queen.
* The East-West All-Star cheerleaders were represently locally by one Logan Countian, former Logan High School cheerleader Jessica Haga.
— Look for much more on the East-West All-Star Classic in the Logan Banner’s Tuesday print edition and on-line at www.loganbanner.com