ON THE MARK: North-South week in Institute is always fun: Column

Mark Martin
Mark Martin

NORTH-SOUTH WEEK: There’s nothing I enjoy more than the annual WCHS-TV/FOX 11 North-South All-Star Football Classic.

The week of camp on the campus of West Virginia State University has been a big part of my life for a long time as I cover the week’s happenings and game.

The friendships I have made through the years of visiting with coaches and players from around the great state of West Virginia has been awesome.

JC CONNECTIONS: Jackson County has had a bevy of representation over the course of time in the North-South Classic, both from a player and coaching standpoint.

Three Ripley Vikings dotted the South roster this year in Kadin Hall, Quinton Joyner and Matt Moore.

The trio brought plenty to the Viking program — especially in their final seasons under first-year head coach Steve Sayre.

Not only are Hall, Joyner and Moore outstanding football players, but they are just excellent young men.

All three drew rave reviews from the coaches and game administrators during the week of camp in Institute.

FUN TIMES: The game is sponsored by the West Virginia Athletic Coaches Association. Classic game director Bob Mullett and his staff do an excellent job of running the show during the week of camp. A lot goes into getting things ready and it’s a labor of love for those in charge, especially Mullett.

Evening activities included two trips to the movies at Park Place Cinemas, bowling at Towne-N-Country Lanes in Nitro and swimming at the Nitro City Pool.

ON THE CALL: Once again I had the pleasure of calling the play-by-play of the contest for WCHS-TV. I was joined on the Par Mar Friday Night Rivals North-South All-Star Football Classic Edition by veteran Ravenswood boys basketball coach and former head football coach Mick Price.

The classy Price enjoyed visiting with the coaches from both the North and South.

The North coaching staff was guided by Daran Hays of North Marion High School.

Hays and Price are both natives of Mannington. Hays’ father, Mike, was Price’s center when they played together at old Mannington High.

Price also knows North assistant Gary Lanham, a member of Hays’ staff at North Marion.

Hays is just the third head coach in the history of North Marion High School, which opened in 1979.

The other two are state championship winning coaches Roy Michael, a West Virginia Sports Writers Association Hall of Famer, and Gerry White, who just happens to be Price’s brother-in-law.

Both Michael and White won as head coaches for the North during their great careers.

On the South side, Price enjoyed talking with head coach Ray Lee and assistant Aaron Baker, who hail from Greenbrier East High School.

The two worked closely at East with the late Jerry Bradley, who is the winningest coach in Spartan boys basketball history. Bradley also worked at the school as an assistant football coach and athletic director.

Bradley got his coaching start with Price in Ravenswood. The two became like brothers during their days together and the bond was never broken.

Price, Lee and Baker all talked about how much they miss Bradley, who died much too young, to this very day.

N-S HALL OF FAME: One of the North-South Classic Hall of Fame inductees was Jody McKown, a former Fayetteville High and WVU standout.

McKown played for the South team of 1977. The winning Cardinal squad featured a trio from Ravenswood’s state championship team of 1976.

Head coach Fred Taylor was one of the South assistants to the late Carl Ward of Ceredo-Kenova. He was joined in the game by linebacker/offensive lineman John McCoy and kicker Jim Thompson.

McKown served as the holder for Thompson in the game while also playing in the secondary and handling the punting duties for the Cardinals.

His late father, Paul, was also a South assistant.

After the North-South, McKown headed off to WVU and though undersized was a three-year starter in the secondary. One of his assistants was Nick Saban, the Monongah, West Virginia native and current national championship winning coach at Alabama.

A neck injury forced McKown to the sidelines and there was fear his career was over.

While his days in the secondary were, he returned to the field after a year’s layoff to punt for Don Nehlen’s Peach Bowl championship team in 1981. McKown was also the holder for the legendary Mountaineer kicker Paul Woodside.

McKown entered the photography business out of college and covered more that 600 events as the owner and founder of Action Sports International.

He was joined in this year’s Hall of Fame class by former Parkersburg and Marshall standout Mike McCoy and long-time coach Ron Terry, who guided the program at old Buffalo-Wayne High School (now Spring Valley) for many years.

NORTH-SOUTH’S MR. WRIGHT: As I mentioned earlier, many friendships have been formed by covering the North-South Classic.

One of those was with the late Kenny Wright.

The former Pennsboro and Ritchie County coaching great died earlier this spring.

I first got acquainted with Kenny when he was serving as the Classic game director.

Kenny was the North head coach in the 1978 contest. One of his assistants was Ripley native Keith Winter.

Wright was a lot of fun to talk with and was a walking encyclopedia of sports history in Ritchie County.

He had ties with so many athletes, coaches, administrators and media members throughout his life in sports.

In addition to our passion for athletics, Wright and yours truly shared a love for writing. He was sports editor for The Pennsboro News for the bulk of his coaching life and until his passing at age 83.

Wright helped many young coaches get their start, including Ripley’s very own Jim Frashier.

Kenny Wright was one of a kind and played a huge role in the success and survival of the North-South Classic since it started back up in 1976.