Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

June 14, 2012

Touchdown Club

Colobro, Sarver honored for achievements

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — It’s been 30 years since Tony Colobro last coached a football game for the Concord Mountain Lions.

He still has a love affair for the game.

When the Blue & Gray Game is held next month at Mitchell Stadium, Colobro will be there ... and not just for the game.

The all-star game created by the Southwest Virginia Touchdown Club and sponsored by Consol Energy had been slated to be held tonight, but will now be played on July 27.

“Believe it or not I will probably watch some of the practices,” Colobro said. “It is still not out of my system. I rarely miss a weekend where I don’t go to a ball game, whether it is Concord or Bluefield or Graham or even Gate City.”

Colobro was one of two local residents who received a Lifetime Achievement Award during a banquet on Thursday evening at the Bluefield Auditorium, overseen by Bill “Frog” Millhorn, who played at Virginia High and Bluefield State and helped create the SWVA Touchdown Club.

“It seems like I have been around here a lifetime,” said Colobro, who had a standout coaching career at Welch High School, Bluefield State and Concord. “I am proud of it, but anytime I get an award I don’t get it for myself, I really think of the young men that played for me, they really deserve this award.

The SWVA Touchdown Club is in its third year, having been created to promote football in the southwestern part of Virginia.  

“They are trying to help give kids a platform to display their athletic ability on and to bring more or less the Southwest Virginia area together as coaches and players and to get some more recognition from this area,” said Honaker football coach Doug Hubbard, one of four recipients of the Players Choice Award. “I think that is the whole key right there.”

Joining Colobro as a Lifetime Achievement Award honoree during a banquet attended by more than 100 people was Jack Sarver, a long-time local resident, who served as a football referee at the prep and college level from 1949-98.

C.P. “Moe” Curcio, who passed away in February, also was honored a similar award. He was a successful football coach at Virginia High.

“It makes me feel real honored to get an award like this,” Sarver said. “It really does.”

Ironically, Sarver’s son, Pete, was also a winner, having been presented with the Distinguished American Award, which is annually sponsored by the National Football Foundation.

“That doesn’t happen a whole lot, but I am really proud of my father,” Pete Sarver said. “He is an incredible gentleman and he refereed for so long, so many college football games and for him to be honored along with Coach Colobro tonight, that really touches my heart.”

So did getting an award on the same night as his dad.

“That is pretty sweet and things like that don’t happen too often in life,” Pete Sarver said. “It is just a very, very special moment.”

Pete Sarver was touched by receiving the award, but quickly deflected credit elsewhere.

“Obviously I am very humbled and honored, I certainly do not feel deserving, but it is a mighty terrific award to win,” Sarver said. “The one that should really win this award is the host, the ring master ‘Frog’, he is the one that is really deserving, but it is an incredible honor and I am very humbled.”

Jack Sarver spent nearly five decades on football fields as an official. Yet, one game sticks out the most. He was on the gridiron as a referee when Marshall visited East Carolina in 1970. The Thundering Herd plane crashed on its way back to Huntington after the game, killing everyone on board.

“That had more of an impression on me than anything else,” Jack Sarver said.  “Even after the 14 bowl games that I worked, those were great games, and a couple or three national championships, but that game with Marshall and East Carolina stands out more than anything.”

Among the numerous other awards presented was an All-Southwest Virginia football team, which included Lamont Edwards, who recently graduated from Graham. Edwards was an honorable mention selection as a linebacker.

“I am going to miss the memories, but I have got many more to make so I appreciate this award they gave me and I am going to go out and work hard,” said Edwards, who hopes to continue his career at the next level.

“I still have to pick a college, but I am definitely going. It is up in the air right now, it is a coin toss.”

Edwards had many fond memories in four seasons at Graham, but none sticks out more than the win at Fort Chiswell last season that helped the G-Men reach the postseason. That came one year after a one-win season that was followed by a coaching change.

“When we really came together as a team and stuck through and got the win,” said Edwards, who missed most of his junior season with an injury. “That is probably the most memorable moment in my high school career.”

Many of the players who were honored by the SWVA Touchdown Club will return to Bluefield in July for the all-star game, the third such contest held by the organization.

One of the reasons the organization moved its functions to Bluefield is the history, not only of Mitchell Stadium, but the Bluefield Auditorium, which has seen its share of memorable moments, one of which was shared by Sarver and his dad.

“It is very touching because I spend so much time down here, from watching Jerry West playing basketball,” Pete Sarver said, “I remember when my father brought me here to watch Jerry West play basketball and he introduced me to him.

“It just brings back all kinds of very special memories.”

Six players were given ‘special’ awards, including Devon Johnson from Richlands, who was honored as the defensive player of the year. Johnson is currently at Marshall, preparing for the upcoming season.

Offensive honors went to Lee High tailback Tyler Graham.

Richlands’ quarterback Reece Strong earned the Sonny Wade Award, while the Mike Compton Lineman Award went to Sammy Ervin at Rye Cove. Brett Johnson of Chilhowie won the Bill Dudley Award, while Galax’s Deion George claimed the Carroll Dale Award.

While many of the honorees were unable to attend, many of the coaches did, and Hubbard certainly enjoyed that part of the evening. Hubbard, who coached current Pittsburgh Steelers’ tight end Heath Miller at Honaker, will return to Bluefield in July to help with the all-star football game.

“I have helped with it the last three years and worked it and have had a lot of players participate in it,” Hubbard said. “We really enjoy ourselves, I really enjoy spending time with the other coaches and sharing ideas and just hanging out with them and it offers a competitive feel.

“You really enjoy each and you really gain a lot of respect for your colleagues in the sport.”

Bringing all the players and coaches together for a banquet and a football game in a few weeks came through the efforts of Consol Energy and Millhorn, who certainly has an affinity for football in the region.

“Tell people about us. We are alive and well in Southwest Virginia,” Millhorn told the audience as the evening drew to a close. “It don’t get no better than being on a football field in Southwest Virginia.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

 at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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