By Cody West
The carousel has come to a halt. All of our new local basketball coaches have found their home, and summer basketball is coming to an end in West Virginia and Kentucky… and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. Hear me out, because I love basketball as much as anyone. It’s time to focus on the gridiron. We’ve got something special here…
Our area is most noted around the world for feuding. The Hatfields and McCoys quit going at it 120 years ago, but feuding has never ended around here, it’s just changed topics to sports. In 2014 the Pirates of Belfry, the Tug Valley Panthers, and the Mingo Central Miners combined to go 34-6 on the football field. Three remarkable records, spearheaded by the state championship of the Bluegrass State brought home by Belfry. That’s not my point, though. It isn’t the time for show and tell, arguing, feuding, bickering, or any of that. It’s a time for pride.
The thing about the three excellent seasons posted by our local clubs last year is that all three teams bring back a great nucleus of talent. Although all three teams lose key members of their backfield, they each have considerable returning pieces on both sides of the football that make them primed for a run once again. Mingo Central lost in the 2nd round to Wayne, a finish they are not satisfied with. Tug Valley lost in the state semi-finals to Williamstown, a finish they are not satisfied with. Belfry won in the state championship game against Central, and they too are not satisfied. Come August, all three of these football teams will strap up with zero satisfaction from 2014, and attempt to win a championship in 2015.
That’s exactly why we have something special. Belfry, Mingo Central, and Tug Valley are just 15-20 minutes apart from each other in driving distance. Three programs separated by that short of a distance have a chance to bring home a state football championship. The only negative is that all season, the team’s fans will spend it arguing about who is the best and worst of the three – a moot point since none of the three teams play and all vie for different championships. The one thing we have here, outside of our sports, is a sense of community. We are “coal country” and we are the very folks who have been crippled by the downtrodden coal industry. Yet, despite every intention of the EPA or Obama or whomever you chose to blame for our situation to end us, we will pack our beautiful football stadiums every Friday night and cheer for our kids, our friend’s kids, our brothers kids – even kids we don’t really know because they represent our communities. When they put their respective name on their chest, it may read Belfry, it may read Mingo Central, and it may read Tug Valley – but what it means is HOME.
This is home. Perhaps I didn’t realize at 18 what I do at 22, when I couldn’t wait to leave and never come back. I am so proud of where I’m from. Home is not four walls, home is not even a town or a building or any sort of landmark. Home is a group of people who have been raised just like you, and that you can relate to. The kids for all three schools are going to do just like our coal miners have done for so many decades and work their tails off to reach their goal. When the times get hard, they are going to do exactly what our coal miners are doing in our struggling economy do right now – fight. They’re not going to quit. We weren’t raised that way here… and that’s why these boys represent home. Resilience, perseverance, toughness, and grit are why they represent home. So whether it’s black and silver, red and white, or Carolina blue and back – if you represent home with these traits, you have my respect and I will cheer for you until the end… Make our hometowns proud.
Go Panthers. Go Pirates. Go Miners.