As the third annual induction into the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame approaches, a new category has been added: An unbeaten McDowell County team will be enshrined each year.
The honor for 2013 will be bestowed upon the undefeated 1963 Welch Maroon Wave football team.
The Waves, who finished 10-0 and outscored their opponents 355 to 62 during the regular season, ended in a tie for second place in the final ratings with Charleston.
Buckhannon-Upshur claimed the number one spot, and it had been previously decided by the Secondary Schools Activities Commission (SSAC) if a tie occurred for second, the top ranked team would be declared the state champion, without a playoff deciding the winner.
That awarding of the Class AAA title to the Buccaneers, without Welch or Charleston having a say on the gridiron, marked the only time since the three class (AAA, AA and A) system was instituted in 1958 that a state champ was decided without the benefit of a playoff contest.
Back during those years, only the top two teams in each class would meet for all the marbles.
Legendary coach Tony Colobro was the head coach of the 1963 Maroon Wave gridders. Of the lack of an opportunity to play for the crown, Coach Colobro said with a shrug, "That's water under the bridge now."
That team was the sixth, and last he coached at Welch, as he left for Bluefield State College to become head mentor there in the fall of 1964. He would later serve as head coach at Concord College (now Concord University) until his retirement following the 1982 season. Colobro ended his stint as head coach of the Maroon Wave with a 39-15-3 mark.
Always one to look at the positive side, Colobro chose to talk fondly of the 1963 team, rather than lament what might have been, "That was a special group of kids. Four of those players went on to become doctors. Ten of the starting eleven went on to college and got their degrees."
He continued, "There were two things that were unusual about that group. Academically, they were way above average and when the season started, nine of the eleven who started were 16 years old or younger. They were a real young group of kids, but there was a lot of character in them."
Coach Colobro was enshrined in the initial induction into the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame, as was starting senior halfback from 1963, Jim Smithberger. Senior tackle Don Roberts was inducted last May, in the second class.
For his efforts on the 1963 team, Smithberger was voted the Kennedy Award winner, which goes each year to the top prep football player in the Mountain State, as voted by members of the West Virginia Sports Writers’ Association. He went on to star at defensive back at Notre Dame and was a vital cog on the 1966 Fighting Irish national championship team.
Roberts excelled on the offensive line at Army, claiming All-East accolades his senior season. He is one of the medical doctors Coach Colobro alluded to earlier.
Other senior starters on that 1963 Maroon Wave team included quarterback Pete Villani, who became a doctor, halfback Nelson Sorah, who served in the West Virginia legislature, guards Tom Bary, who played at Concord, Tom Ferrell, who served as an assistant football coach at Bluefield High School, tackle Bob Hubbard, who went on to play at WVU, ends Greg McMorrow, also a doctor, and Pat Leach.
Junior Steve Bary, who still lives in Welch and was a longtime teacher in the county school system, after playing football at Concord, was the starting center and sophomore Tom Callaway was the starting fullback. Callaway, who played football at Tennessee, has served stints as head coach at Gary and Big Creek high schools and more recently at Rye Cove High School in Virginia.
Remembered Steve Bary of that team, "We all had a good time and were really serious about what we were doing.”
Continued Bary, speaking of the pregame meal on Friday afternoon, "We had those red blazers. We'd walk from the school through downtown to the Mountaineer to have our meal. That was a big deal to us (as players). Everyone knew who we were and that added to the pride we had."
Spoke Coach Colobro of his years at Welch, "I was very fortunate to have had a supportive principal in Eddie Richardson. He was really supportive of the program. I was very fortunate to have Joe Orrison and Frank Marino as assistant coaches."
He continued, "I don't remember the wins. I remember the kids and the relationships. It’s a special relationship. It's a bond. It's just like family. As far as I'm concerned, it is family.
Several members of that 1963 Welch team are expected to attend the induction dinner and ceremonies on Sunday, May 5, at Mount View High School. The festivities will begin at 2 p.m.
Unfortunately Coach Joe Orrison has passed away, as have 11 of the former gridders: Pat Leach, Nelson Sorah, Richard Hansen, Bobby Hymes, Jim McClure, Ernest Sigler, Rush Smith, Kenneth Day, Dan Prichard, Jimmy Joe Stamper and Frank Fowler.
The McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Welch Lions Club.
For reservations to the dinner and induction, call Raymond’s Restaurant in Welch at (304) 436-2572.
1963 Welch Maroons
Seth W 27-7
Logan W 26-6
Belfry, Ky. W 14-0
Iaeger W 39-0
Northfork-Elkhorn W 54-14
Bluefield W 13-7
Mullens W 45-7
Pineville W 47-13
Big Creek W 26-0
Gary W 64-8
• • •
Seniors: Tom Bary (No. 28, Guard); Frank Battlo (14, G), Don Boyce (33, E); Tom Ferrell (27, G); John Goslin (22, E), Bob Hubbard (39, T), Pat Leach (42, E), Greg McMorrow (34, E); Don Roberts (36, T); Jim Smithberger (21, B); Nelson Sorah (19, B); Pete Villani (11, B) and Richard Hansen (43, T).
Juniors: Steve Bary (30, C); Bill Belchee (10, G); Bill Dudley (22, B); Jim French (40, G); Tom Green (85, E); John Fly (missing number, G); Bobby Horn (25, B); Bobby Hymes (41, T); Sonny Jenks (10, B); Chester Long (none, B); Jim McClure (32, G); Ernest Sigler (24, B); Rush Smith (12, E).
Sophomores: Tom Callaway (35, B); Kenneth Day (31, T); Eddie Deak (49, T); Joe Facello (44, G); Kibby Lewis (15, B); Jerry McBrayer (16, B); John Oblinger (20, B); Dan Prichard (26, B); Jimmy Spano (67, B); Jimmy Joe Stamper (17, B); Bobo Whitehead (18, B).
Freshmen: Fred Bishop (none, T); Frank Fowler (37, T); Dickie Roberts (23, C); Danny Smith (29, T).
Head Coach: Tony Colobro
Assistants: Frank Marino, Joe Orrison
Managers: Dickie Davis, Mike Slater, Allen Stroupe