Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

May 15, 2014

Award winners continue tradition for Bluefield football

BLUEFIELD — Tradition is an important part of the football program at Bluefield High School. Players are well aware of the school’s 10 state championships and 11 undefeated seasons.

Another tradition for the Beavers over the last quarter of a century have been four awards given to seniors each year.

The Merrill Gainer Commitment to Excellence Award, the Stubby Currence Beaver Tradition Award, the Jay Sims Team Player Award and the John Chmara Heart of a Champion Award are given to players, as voted by members of the football team.

Gainer was the Bluefield football coach from 1959-67 during which time the team won four championships and lost only eight games. Currence was the long-time sportswriter, editor and executive at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Jay Sims was a former Beavers’ player who was paralyzed in a shooting and passed away at a young age and John Chmara coached the Beavers from 1968-85 before returning to assist current coach Fred Simon in the 1990s.

Simon talked about the significance of each award and its namesake.

“Coach Gainer established the standard here and started the tradition,” Simon commented. “We felt he definitely needed and deserved an award for our players. For us it means you’re committed, in academics, in athletics, everything.”

This year’s recipient of the Gainer Award is linebacker Daniel Barker.

Previous winners included Justin Mariotti (2012), Byron Steptoe (2010), Will Cole (2008) and Ansel Ponder (2007).

The Currence Award goes to a team player, who leads by example, exemplifies Beaver tradition and encourages his teammates.

“We know what Stubby mean to us,” Simon said. “He is similar to Coach Gainer in the writing profession. Here’s a man that started (at the Daily Telegraph) in the 1920s and continued until he died in the early ‘80s. That’s something else.

“He really supported area sports and Bluefield High School. (His column) ‘The Press Box’ was always talking about us or other athletes. We’re happy to have an award named after him.”

The 2013 Currence Award winner is lineman D.J. Sims.

Prior recipients include Shawn Pennington (2012), Cody Wassum and Matt Lawless (2008), Daniel Wells (2004) and the first winner, Brock Steckline (1989).

The Sims Award honors team leadership and leading by example.

“I had the pleasure of coaching (Jay) Sims in junior high and high school,” Simon said. “He was a class person, just a good guy. He got shot down at (Bluefield) City Park but bounced back and never let that bother him through the rest of his life. He came up here, watched us practice, talked to me about playing.

“He played hard, practiced hard, was excellent in the classroom and was an excellent role model for anybody who ever played sports at Bluefield High School. He didn’t let tragedy get him down.”

D.J. Edwards is this year’s recipient of the Sims Award.

Leslie Hurt won the first Sims Award in 1989 and others to receive the honor include D.W. Perdue (1991), Yubrenal Isabelle (1996), Charles Tynes (1997), Rusty Coeburn (2004) and Julius Thomas (2012).

The Chmara Heart of a Champion Award was first given in 1994 in honor of the former Bluefield coach. It is based on performance, sportsmanship and heart.

“When Coach came back to help us in the ‘90s, we felt like it was time to honor him. He gave everything he had,” Simon noted. “Being an assistant to Coach Gainer and a head coach and then coming back to assist me, he gave more than 30 years to Bluefield High School. He gave everything he had.”

The 2013 Chmara Award was presented to lineman Cody Gore.

Previous honorees include Mike Mann (1994), Donald Amaker (1999), Jake Lilly (2009) and Keith Ferguson (2010).

“We think these four gentlemen who received these awards represent us in an understanding way,” Simon said. “We are happy to carry on the tradition.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com, Twitter @bdtredd.

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