By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
GREEN VALLEY —
Student athletes and the coal industry came together for a night of celebration, Tuesday at the Princeton Elks Club as the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year dinner honored 11 weekly football award winners, a coach of the year, and the player of the year.
Pocahontas Coal Association president Rick Taylor began the night introducing the group.
“The Pocahontas Coal Association is made up of coal companies, vendors, people who care about coal," he said.
Following dinner guest speaker Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association and a Princeton native, offered his congratulations to the athletes and recalled that the last time he attended this particular event, Ahmad Bradshaw was named Player of the Year. Bradshaw now plays for the New York Giants.
“I know you will go on to great things,” Raney told the student athletes.
Raney also spoke of the importance of coal in the everyday lives of Americans and shared some statistics: Coal makes up 10 percent of West Virginia’s budget; 18,000 miners are employed in West Virginia, with another 40,000 dependent on those workers; coal is the fastest growing fossil fuel in the world the past eight years.
BDT Sports Editor Brian Woodson spoke of the great coaches throughout the region and announced Doug Hubbard of Honaker as Coach of the Year. Hubbard, in his 30th year of coaching, will lead the Tigers into the Virginia Group A Division 1 state championship Saturday against George Wythe.
Taylor then took to the podium where he thanked the parents for what they have done and continue to do for the football players being honored.
“You are the taxi... I’ve been there and I wouldn’t trade it for nothing,” Taylor said.
Each player was introduced and the statistics for the week of the award were given, along with season accomplishments, and each awardee was presented with a trophy and t-shirt. The following players were recognized:
Week 1 - Spencer Sheets, Graham
Week 2 - Colton Staten, Richlands
Week 3 - Wayne Mutter, Grundy
Week 4 - Montel Leggett, Bluefield
Week 5 - Cody McCann, Tazewell
Week 6 - Teddy Hazzard, Mount View
Week 7 - Gray Baker, Richlands
Week 8 - Cody Hatfield, Graham
Week 9 - Jason Grose, Montcalm
Week 10 - Ian Mann, Giles
Week 11 - Jordan Wilson, River View
Three finalists for Player of the Year were then recognized, they being Graham’s Cody Hatfield, Bluefield’s Montel Leggett, and Giles’ Ian Mann. Mann was named as Player of the Year and presented a trophy for his accomplishments.
After the activities, Taylor said, We’ve been doing this for 12 years and it’s a lot of fun. I think the most fun is getting to see all the players. (They) look forward to this, (to) hear them talk about it, it’s a big thrill to know they enjoy it. The coal association just wants to let them know we support them not only here, but beyond.”
Raney believes that tomorrow’s leaders are being built today and that events such as the dinner is valuable.
“I think it’s important because what you have are leaders – leaders on the team and leaders in the school typically,” Raney said. “It’s nice to have the exposure and see them excel not only in sports, but in the community. That’s what the coal industry is all about in this region.
“We’re seeking leaders. We’re going to turn all this over to them one of these days and these kids have got to figure out to do it. It’s nice to see the decisiveness they don’t even realize they are doing on the field, how it’s going to work so well for them in future life.”
Woodson expressed thanks to the coal association.
“We are very glad to be associated with the Pocahontas Coal Association in honoring our Players of the Week, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year,” Woodson said. “There are many great athletes in our region and this is one way of giving recognition to their accomplishments.”