NEWTOWN — The East-West All-Star Classic is only in its second year but Game Director Yogi Kinder already has a vision for the future.
The state of West Virginia already has the North-South All-Star Game, played every June at Charleston’s Laidley Field.
Kinder sees the East-West growing in scope and popularity and someday hopes the game will rival or even surpass the North-South.
This year’s game is scheduled to be played on Saturday night at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
The players in this year’s game hail mostly from the southern Coalfields, plus other areas such as Wayne, the Greater Charleston area, Beckley and Bluefield.
“We’re going to try to make this bigger and bigger every year,” Kinder said. “We want to keep expanding the borders out in West Virginia. We’d like to go up to the middle of the state a little bit and draw on some players there.”
Kinder said game officials have an even bigger vision — expanding the map northward — and possibilty even grabbing players from across the whole state.
If that is the case, however, housing would have to be provided for the out-of-town players. Currently, all of the players in Saturday night’s game are within about an hour and a half or so driving distance away from MCHS.
“Jeff Simpkins, our sponsor, was talking and he wants to make this a better game and do something like the North-South game,” Kinder said. “He’s like to be able to keep them a week. We’re just looking for a place now to keep them. That’s the biggest thing. He’s the first sponsor that we’ve had that wants to make it bigger.”
One of the primary goals for the East-West is that it’s a fundraiser for Mingo Central.
“It’s a big fundraiser for us,” Kinder said. “That’s a key thing. The Jeff Simpkins Law Office firm is the sponsor. Jeff is our old quarterback at Matewan when we had some good teams and helped us win a couple of state championships. Luckily, he jumped aboard because we had Cliffs Natural Resources and then went under.”
Another aim of the East-West is that it allows players one more shot at playing in front of college coaches.
Last year, and in the past at the old Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl, college coaches in attendance ended up giving scholarships to players after seeing them play in person.
“A lot of college coaches will be coming,” Kinder said. “In the 20 years that we’ve had this, counting the Hatfield and McCoy we’ve had several kids that have had offers at the end of the ballgame. They had never had a chance to see them play because a lot of these college coaches don’t get a chance to go on Friday nights and go watch the kids play. They are gone on Friday nights to where they have to stay in a hotel before their games on Saturdays. This gives them another chance to go see some of these guys that they hear about. Watching someone on film and watching them play in person is different.”
Some of the East-West players will be going on to play at the collegiate level.
For many, though, this will be the last time they will ever play a football game.
“It gives these guys an opportunity to play one more game,” Kinder said. “Maybe some of them had a bad game at the end of the year last year. This is a chance for them to redeem themselves.”
The East-West replaces the Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl which was played at 18 years from 1996-2013.
The first 16 Senior Bowls were played at the old Matewan High School football field. The last two were at Mingo Central.
West Virginia ended up winning the overall series 12-6.
Schools from the Kentucky side of the border reportedly ended up losing interest in the game and the feud ended after 18 years.
West Virginia went into many of the Senior Bowl games as the perceieved underdogs but often won the battle in the trenches, outhit their Kentucky counterparts and had several big plays which ended up turning the tide in many of the matchups.
“They kind of lost interest,” Kinder said when asked about the Kentucky players and the demise of the HM Bowl. “With the West Virginia teams, we got our players from Gilbert, Logan and Chapmanville and from here and they got players that had won state championships at Pikeville and Belfry. When they put all of those players together, the boys from over here had never really won anything and they just kicked the fire out of them. They got mad about that.”
The West Virginia All-Stars seemed to have a better team concept and players were often more willing to accept their roles, even if they were limited, Kinder said.
“Always,” Kinder said. “The last couple of years we let them go beyond the boundaries because West Virginia was beating them so daggone much. I said, ‘Man, we’ve got to do something to create a little more interest.’ So they went to Bell County, Breathitt County and on to Lexington and Louisville and they still got waxed.”
It’s still rare for West Virginia high football teams to play their Kentucky counterparts.
It’s getting even more rare, Kinder said.
“You hardly ever saw them on the Kentucky side but you always heard about them,” Kinder said. “Nobody over here plays anybody over there. It is very rare. We are right there on the border when we were at Matewan and we used to play Phelps, Belfry and Pikeville. But they kind of got away from playing us.”
There will be other activities at the East-West with all-star cheerleaders and the crowning of the second East-West All-Star Classic queen.
“We’re still going to have the queens and the cheerleaders and all of that,” Kinder said.
The East-West will again have the same color schemes — blue and gold and green and white.
In past years the West Virginia All-Stars of the Hatfield-McCoy Bowl had the navy blue and gold of WVU, while the Bluegrass State team had the University of Kentucky blue and white.
This year, the West will again don the green and white (think Marshall), while the East will wear the yellow (think WVU).
The old Hatfield-McCoy Bowl was moved to Matewan’s old Tiger Stadium in 1996 after the Kiwanis Senior Bowl, which started in 1957, folded.
The K-Bowl, which was played at Williamson, started back in 1957 and lasted until the mid-1980s. The only time that game wasn’t played was the summer after the disastrous 1977 flood.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).