By LARRY HYPES
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Being in the right place at the right time as legendary coach Tony Colobro observed, and being prepared, proved game plans for lasting McDowell County fame Sunday.
Collectively, more than 50 outstanding sports figures (including the 42 members of the undefeated 1963 Welch High School football team) were enshrined into the Class of 2013 of the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame in the third annual ceremonies. More than 250 guests attended the festivity at Mount View High School which was moved from its former location at Raymond’s Restaurant in Welch in order to provide extra seating.
A dozen individual honorees included Leon ‘Babe’ Allison (Gary District), Donald Boyd (Welch), Harold ‘Sandy’ Bright (Welch), Thomas Callaway (Welch), Eustace Frederick (Elkhorn), Jim Gregory (Gary), Mark Page (Northfork), Thurman Peters (Iaeger), George ‘Joe Ed’ Phillips (Welch), Richard ‘Dickie’ Roberts (Welch), Fred Schrom (Big Creek) and Ron Tote (Northfork).
The staff and management of WELC Radio in Welch, including the Sidote family, was also honored for their contributions to county sports including beginning broadcasts with the Iaeger Cubs games during the 1950s and continuing to present day with the Mount View Golden Knights and River View Raiders. Those mentioned included Sam Sidote, John and Mary Sidote, Tom Hicks, Johnny Villani, Tim Redmond, Troy Hawks, Jr., Ed Evans, John Pennington, and Clarence Lester.
“This is a great day for McDowell County and a tribute to the outstanding communities, schools, athletes, and coaches produced here over the years,” said Wayne Hicks, who again served as master of ceremonies and overall coordinator of the HOF event. Hicks played at Welch and was elected to the Hall himself last year. He is a long-time member of the Welch Lions Club, which sponsors the event, and is highly regarded as a tireless promoter of local athletes.
The ‘63 Welch Maroon Wave, coached by Colobro with Joe Orrison and Frank Marino as assistants, completed a 10-0 regular season by outscoring its opponents 355-62, winning county, area, and regional championships but was denied a chance to play top-ranked Buckhannon-Upshur for the state championship. Welch finished tied for second with Charleston and the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission decreed there would be no playoff.
Plaques were presented to several ‘63 players and/or family members by Hicks on behalf of the Lions Club. Colobro introduced two of his former Maroon Wave stars, Don Roberts and Jim Smithberger, (both already HOF members) who recalled the team, the town, and the county during that championship period.
Page was honored for his unique record of having first been a player, then assistant coach, and later head coach of state championship teams at Northfork. He seldom played as a sophomore but once came in to score 19 points in the fourth quarter as a 10th grader for the late Jennings Boyd’s powerhouse team, which set a national record with eight straight state championships from 1974-81.
Tote was a record-setting Blue Demon athlete, an outstanding football runner, and later compiled a 100-2 record as Northfork girls’ coach, winning three state titles in four years.
Callaway played in the Cotton and Gator Bowls as well as the 1968 Orange Bowl national championship game for SEC champion No. 2 Tennessee when Oklahoma edged the Volunteers 26-24.
Gregory, a three-time high school All-Stater for the Coaldiggers, was a solid scorer and outstanding rebounder. He set a host of records at East Carolina University before making it to the final cut in a bid to play professional basketball.
Schrom, a pioneering area wrestling coach for the Owls, where he coached for 22 seasons, is a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (2008) in Stillwater, Okla., representing the West Virginia chapter. Schrom coached scores of high-ranking state wrestlers and was also instrumental in helping to develop wrestling programs throughout McDowell County.
Boyd led the state in scoring in 1952 — he piled up 21 touchdowns — and was a college teammate of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas at Louisville. Boyd was a two-way starter for four consecutive seasons for the Cardinals.
Phillips was All-State in high school and honorable mention All-American at Concord College (University). He holds the Mountain Lion record with a 99-yard touchdown run, set during a game when he scored five touchdowns.
Roberts won the Hunt Award (top state lineman) in high school and played in the ‘69 Peach Bowl for WVU and Coach Jim Carlen as the 17th-ranked Mountaineers beat South Carolina 14-13. He and his brother, Don (2012) are the only siblings in the McDowell Hall of Fame. Roberts was famed for his hard-hitting style of play.
Bright initiated the Iaeger wrestling program with more than 100 wrestlers qualifying for the state tournament during his 27-year career. He won several coaching honors including the ‘94 Coalfield Conference Coach of the Year. Peters starred at Iaeger and played on championship U.S. Army teams at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Allison and Frederick were honored posthumously. Allison, who passed away last month, won all-county awards before becoming a standout on U.S. Army teams, where he once played against the Harlem Globetrotters during their glory years. Frederick led Elkhorn to its only county championship in 1947 — he scored the winning touchdown in the title game. Frederick was a scholarship two-way starter for Frank Moseley’s Gobblers at VPI (Virginia Tech), where he was a team captain in 1951. Frederick was also a West Virginia state delegate and Vice President of Consolidated Coal Company. He passed away in 2008.
Colobro, a HOF inductee in the 2011 inaugural class, was praised by many members for a sports career spanning more than 70 years. He was presented a framed picture of the unbeaten Maroon Wave team by ‘63 WHS quarterback Dr. Peter Villani. Colobro also introduced Peters, who played for him at Iaeger where he began his coaching career. Colobro gained fame at Welch before becoming a highly-successful coach at Bluefield State College and later Concord College (University). He retired in 1982.
Nomination forms are available from the Welch Lions Club for prospective HOF members for 2014.�