Ken Hilling, WDN Sports Editor
The Maroon Wave closed the history book on the Welch-Gary football series with a convincing 31-6 "Veterans Day" victory over the Coaldiggers at Maroon Wave Stadium Friday afternoon.
The 1977 contest marked the final game between Welch and Gary after 56 years of rugged football rivalry.
With the 1977 grid win Welch picked up its 29th win in the series. The Gary Coaldiggers own 23 wins. The two teams have battled to eight tie games in the series.
The "Barrel", which has been in the possession of Welch High School for the past four years, has been retired by the principals of both Gary and Welch High Schools.
A statement concerning the "Barrel" was given the WDN Sports Department Friday by Kenneth Roberts, Assistant Principal of Welch High School, for publication today. The statement is as follows:
Bob N. Jack, Principal of Welch High School, and Bernard Harless, Principal of Gary High School, wish to announce that "The Barrel" of the Gary-Welch football games has been retired and placed in a NEUTRAL LOCATION as an archive of the McDowell County School System. Congratulations are extended to both schools for their outstanding service to students over the years. Also, best wished are extended to both schools as they retire "The Barrel" and merge into one at Mount View High School.
Bob N. Jack
November 10, 1977
The "Barrel" is presently in the hands of McDowell County Board of Education. Jack said, "It is up to the Board as to where the final location of the 'Barrel' will be."
The "Barrel" games were originated in 1940 when Gary Head Coach Joe Friedl and Welch Head Coach Vernon Calloway saw their teams battle to a 6-6 tie.
During the pre-game ceremonies at Welch Maroon Wave Stadium Friday the parents of the players were introduced to the spectators.
Also during the ceremonies McDowell County School Superintendent John Drosick and Sid Cure, newly appointed head coach at Mt. View High School, spoke to the capacity crowd of spectators.
John Gouge of the Gary Coaldiggers kicked off to the Welch Maroon Wave and the historic game was underway.
The Maroon Wave used 13 plays to march 55 yards into the Gary end zone and scored the first touchdown of the game with 7:14 showing on the scoreboard clock. It was a two yard plunge by Tim Foster that gave the Maroon Wave the 6-0 lead over the Gary Coaldiggers. Jeff Pike of Welch added the PAT kick and the Wave had an early 7-0 lead over Gary.
The Gary Coaldiggers took the ensuing kickoff and were headed toward the Welch goal line, 35 yard stripe, when the buzzer sounded.
As the second quarter began, the 'Diggers were still in possession of the pigskin and headed toward the Welch goal line. The Maroon Wave defense stopped the Gary drive on their own eight yard stripe and took over on downs as the Coaldiggers turned the ball over on a fourth down and two yards to go for a first.
The big play for Gary in the drive was a 26 year draw play. Gary quarterback Jerry Powell faked, then handed off to Kenny Young. Young broke over his left side of the line and galloped from the Welch 41 yard marker to the Welch 15.
The Coaldiggers used 22 plays, and ran 10:43 off the game clock in the drive.
In the rest of the second period the Wave used up clock and to the Gary three yard line before being stopped. Welch turned the ball over to the Coaldiggers on the three yard stripe with less than half a minute remaining to be played in the first half. Kenny Meggison of the 'Diggers took the handoff from Powell and advanced it to the eight yard line as the buzzer sounded ending the first half.
Welch led 7-0 at the end of the first half.
In the third period the Coaldiggers took control of the ball on their own 33 yard stripe. After eight plays they were forced to kick from the Welch 45 yard stripe.
The Wave took over on their own 25. Twelve plays later Nate Neal of the Maroon Wave cracked into the end zone with Welch's second TD of the afternoon.
The big play for Welch on the drive came on a third and one situation on the Gary 25 yard line. Neal took a pitch out from his quarterback Mike Polascik and was shoved out of bounds on the one yard stripe by a Gary defender.
Neal got the call and scored from one yard away on the next play from scrimmage.
Pike added the PAT kick and Welch led 14-0 with 4:34 to play in the third canto.
Late in the third period Welch was in the driver's seat, and headed toward the pay dirt area. Polascik uncorked an aerial from the Gary 28 yard stripe. The pass was picked off by Powell on the Gary five yard line.
Opening up the fourth period Welch was leading 14-0. With 9:43 to play in the game Pike line up, with Rick Farmer holding, and booted a 31 yard field goal to put his team ahead 17-0.
Gary kicker Powell was backed up on his own 20 yard line to punt. The ball hit into the back of a Gary lineman and bounced high into the air. Welch lineman Mike Pensul caught the ball and was immediately brought to the ground on the Coaldiggers' 15 yard line.
Polascik tossed a 15 yard TD pass to Neal on the first play from scrimmage and the Wave led 23-0. Pike added his third successful PAT kick of the afternoon and Welch led 24-0.
With 4:36 to play in the contest, the Coaldiggers lit the lights on their side of the scoreboard when Jeffrey Joyce (now directing the 'Diggers from the quarterback slot) tossed a 28 yard touchdown pass to Reggie Jones. The PAT kick failed and the Coaldiggers trailed 24-6.
It took the Welch Wave six plays to add another score. With 1:39 remaining on the clock Tony Thomas rushed into the Gary end zone with a seven yard touchdown run. Pike added the PAT kick and Welch iced the game 31-6. Thomas scored on a pitchout play from Polascik.
In the final series of downs for the Coaldiggers, Meggison ran the kickoff back from his own 20 to the 'Diggers 40. Joyce tossed a 22 yard aerial to put his team on the Welch 38 yard stripe with a first and 10.
Seven plays later the horn sounded, ending the game with the 'Diggers on the Welch nine yard stripe with third down and three yards to go for a first.
Thus ended the 56 year football series between the Welch Maroon Wave and the Gary Coaldiggers.
The 31-6 Welch victory brought to an end one of the biggest football rivalries in West Virginia.
In the rushing department Welch led 282-97. In the passing department Welch completed two of four for 26 yards. Gary completed two of four for a total of 50 yards.
The Maroon Wave gained 17 first downs in the game as their defense limited the 'Diggers to nine.
Welch was caught with eight penalties and had 100 yards marched off against them. Gary saw the officials step of 46 yards against them with six violations.
Neal of Welch was the leading ground gainer in the game as he rushed for a total of 131 yards.