NEWTOWN — Back on New Year’s Eve 1988 the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles played in one of the wildest games in NFL history.
It was remembered for the strange weather at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Dubbed, “The Fog Bowl,” the Bears won 20-12 over the Eagles, led by quarterback Randall Cunningham.
During the second quarter, a dense fog rolled off Lake Michigan and blanketed the football stadium, cutting visibility to about 15 to 20 yards for the rest of the game.
Cunningham passed for 407 yards despite the low visibility but could not get the ball into the end zone.
Players complained they could not see the sidelines or the first-down markers. The fans in the stands, the TV announcers and the PA annoucer could not see the action out on the field.
West Virginia had its own version of the Fog Bowl on Saturday night at Mingo Central’s Buck Harless Stadium as the first-ever East-West All-Star Classic was played.
Four snaps into the game and with the West with the ball, a fog rolled over on the mountaintop stadium.
The fog became thick at times but went away quickly.
Late in the second quarter, a second blanket of fog rolled in, dubbed “The Fog Part II,” and stayed until well after halftime.
Visibility was poor at times and fans in the stands had problems seeing the players on the field.
Mingo Central’s football stadium, which sits at nearly 2,000 feet in altitude, is known for its cold weather. Often times, it’s seven degrees colder on top of the mountain for Mingo Central Miners’ games during the fall. Last October, a foot of snow fell onto the field but even Mingo Central coach and East-West Game Director Yogi Kinder said he hasn’t seen anything like this.
West All-Star Coach Gary Mullins, who led his team to a 35-0 win on Saturday night, had been through a Fog Bowl game before.
In the mid-2000s, Logan was playing at Herbert Hoover when a thick fog rolled across the Elk River Valley as the Wildcats were playing the Huskies at Falling Rock.
“The fog rolled in and it was thick there,” Mullins said. “We learned something from that Herbert Hoover game a few years ago when the fog rolled in there at Falling Rock. Back then, we modified our offense and went away from what we were doing. When the fogged rolled in tonight we said, ‘We’re going to keep going with our offense and keep throwing it.’”
And pass it they did.
In the fog and all.
Leading 7-0, West quarterback Jonathan Alexander of George Washington High School, passed into the fog and hit Mingo Central’s Alex Lee for a 37-yard touchdown pass with just three second left until halftime.
The West then ran a fake on the PAT as Logan’s Josh Rein passed to Lee for two points.
When the fog cleared, er didn’t clear, the West took a 15-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“Alex Lee really turned around the game with that catch,” Mullins said. “And then he had the two-point conversion right after that. He had a great series there and it really springboarded us into the second half. A lot could be said about him because he really helped us out there.”
Problem was, no one in the stands really saw Lee’s TD catch or his two-point conversion catch.
The fog was that thick.
After Lee’s two-point conversion grab, the scoreboard still read 13-0.
That’s because the PA announcer and the scoreboard operator high up in the pressbox couldn’t see if the officials had signaled a score or not.
They soon got the word and 15 points were put up onto the scoreboard.
Butcher plays QB
Logan High School’s Jody Butcher cashed in on a promise.
He got to play quarterback.
Butcher, a lineman by trade, who played on the line in Saturday night’s East-West game, was brought in at QB in the West’s final series.
The West was up 35-0 at the time.
“When I was the track coach a few years ago at Logan I was a little bit sick and I told Jody that if he would go get me a cough drop I would let him play quarterback for one snap before he got out of high school,” Coach Mullins said. “He came up to me on the sideline tonight and said, ‘Remember that cough drop that I got you?’ He said he was ready to cash it in now. Playing quarterback tonight will be a memory that he will have the rest of his life.”
Butcher had a little trouble handling the first snap but managed to hand off to Michael Belcher for no gain.
On the second snap, Butcher handed off cleanly to Capital’s Jaisson Dyer, a lineman, who was rewarded with a carry that went for six yards.
Butcher handed off to Capital’s Jonathan Pittman for a one-yard loss on third down.
Then on fourth-and-five, Butcher handed off to Capital lineman Adam Huffman who was stopped for no gain.
The East got the ball but four snaps later the game was over.
Man’s Cayce Mullins also played some QB in the game, completing 1-of-2 passes for 13 yards and rushing once for eight yards. His completion was to Man teammate Tracy Jones.
A bench-clearing fight, however, put a bit of a damper on the game.
With 4:55 left in the third quarter, the West’s James Walton, last year’s Hunt Award winner as the state’s best interior lineman, scooped up a fumble and rumbled 30 yards for a touchdown.
Upon crossing the goal line, West players said the East’s T.J. Smith speared one of their players. Walton, of Capital High School, then flipped the ball back at Smith.
Players from each side began to shove each other and soon the benches emptied.
The fracas was soon broken up by the coaches and the officials and the game continued.
As players were separated, the P.A. announcer chimed in, saying, “Come on guys, let’s play some football!”
“Sometimes that happens but in a high school game you are ejected so there are reprocussions,” Coach Mullins said. “But there’s not here. I was glad to see everyone bounce back and say, ‘Let’s finish the game.’”
Future of the game
The East-West All-Star Classic replaced the annual Hatfield-McCoy Senior Bowl, which had been played at Matewan/Mingo Central from 1996-2013.
The Senior Bowl was discontinued just a couple of months ago.
Coach Mullins said he thinks the East-West has a bright future. Mullins’ West team was a blend of players from the southern Coalfields and the Charleston area.
“I think so. It will just get better and better,” Mullins said. “I’m looking forward to being able to say that I coached in the first one.”
Mullins nabbed 14 players from Logan County to play for his West team, including: Worm Street, Jody Butcher, Josh Rein, Jacob Vance, Clayton Marcum, Tyler Vernatter, Tyler Workman, Ty Yeager and Daniel Hanks from Logan; Cayce Mullins, Tracy Jones, Thomas Holt and Jeremiah Beavers from Man; and Matt Chapman of Chapmanville.
The East All-Stars were coached by River View High School’s Gehrig Justice, a Gilbert native.
The Offensive MVP’s were: the East’s Devin Allen of Princeton High School; and the West’s James Richmond.
The Defensive MVP’s were: the East’s Erik Lindsey of Summers County; and the West’s James Walton, who is headed to play Division II college football at Shepherd University.
Four scholarship awards were also handed out to Worm Street, Jon Pittman of Capital High School, Brian Whitt of Wyoming East; and Brennan Wheeler of Bluefield High School.
Cliffs Natural Resources was the main sponsor of the game.
Abby Hensley of Chapmanville Regional High School was named at halftime as the first-ever East-West All-Star Classic Queen.
The East-West All-Star cheerleaders were represently locally by one Logan Countian, former Logan High School cheerleader Jessica Haga.