Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 17, 2014

McDowell Hall names new inductees

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH — A group of ten sports stars from the past make up the fourth annual induction class of the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Welch Lions Club.

The 2014 induction will be held on Sunday, June  at Mount View High School, beginning at 2 p.m.

All 10 new inductees are former athletes, with four also being honored for their coaching endeavors after college.

Robert “Bob” Gresham and Oscar Patrick, former Big Creek athletes, as well as West Virginia University alums and football greats, will be enshrined from that area of McDowell County.  Both also played basketball for the Owls, while Gresham lettered in track, as well.

Tim Floyd led Gary District’s basketball Bulldogs to the Class AA runner-up slot in 1962 before going on to star in that sport at West Virginia Tech.

Former football head coaches Howard “Butch” Bivens II and Michael “Mitch” Estep will be inducted from the Iaeger area.

Bivens, a Welch High grad, coached the Cubs to their first-ever football playoff berth in 1979.

Estep, who played for Bivens at Iaeger, returned to his alma mater to lead the Cubs from 1980 through the 2009 campaign, the last before consolidation into River View.  He then headed the Raider program for the first three grid seasons, taking his teams to the playoffs thirteen times as a head coach.

Kimball and Northfork coaching legend Henry Winkfield will be posthumously enshrined from the Northfork area, where he served as an assistant basketball coach on all eight Blue Demon consecutive basketball title squads from 1974 through 1981, before becoming head coach for the 1981-82 season.

The late Matthew “Hinge” Johnson, longtime coach at Kimball High School, will also be inducted posthumously for his labors of success with the Terrors.

Former Blue Demon football and basketball All-State player Ron Spencer led Northfork to the 1971 Class AA basketball state championship.

James Rich and Tom Stepp represent the Welch area in this year’s induction.

Rich excelled in basketball and baseball for the Maroon Wave before playing basketball collegiately at Washington and Lee University.

Stepp played baseball and football at Welch and continued his stellar baseball career at Greenbrier Military School and West Virginia University.

As was the case last year and will continue this and future years, a deserving athletic team from McDowell County will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

This year’s team will be the 1957 Big Creek Owl football team that went 10-0, averaging 31 points per game, while allowing only six points per contest.

Only the top two teams in each class went to the playoffs that year and each year until the early 1970s, and the Owls were not rated in the top two, so were not invited to post season play.

That year would be Merrill Gainer’s last in War as football coach, as the Owls were not allowed to play in 1958 and he went to Bluefield High School prior to the 1959 season.

The reason for the hiatus in 1958 was a suspension handed down by the WVSSAC because the Big Creek Boosters’ Club had sued to stop the 1957 state championship game because the Owls, one of only two unbeaten teams in that classification, had not been deemed to have been in the top two in the state.

More will follow on the profiles of this year’s ten inductees, as well as the 1957 Owl football team.

Plaques honoring past inductees are on display at the Sterling Drive Inn and several of those are currently on display at the Larry Joe Harless Center in Gilbert until May 3rd, as part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Hometown Teams exhibit.

The McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame has been sponsored from its inception by the Welch Lions Club.