Ex-Parkersburg High School football players reminisce about glory days, friendship
PARKERSBURG — Fifty-eight years ago, Parkersburg lost to Bluefield in the state high school football championship game, 19-13.
A year earlier, PHS, with some members from the 1959 team, defeated East Bank High School, 34-12, to win the state football championship in 1958.
Friendships have remained strong among these former Parkersburg High School football players who graduated in 1960.
“We are pretty close, like brothers,” said Larry Allen of Parkersburg, a starting lineman on both the 1958 and 1959 Big Red teams.
“We kid each other, but we respect each other,” Allen said of his high school football teammates.
Several members from the 1959 PHS football team, who graduated in 1960, gathered in Parkersburg recently to reminisce and reflect on the good times they enjoyed while growing up here.
Larry Holman of Marion, Ohio, Mike Dyer of Clarksburg, Dick McCoy of Clearwater, Fla., and Hinton, W.Va., Roger Stoops of Pennsboro, Mike Hayden of Vienna and Larry Allen met for dinner at the Blennerhassett Hotel. They were joined by the Rev. George Nedeff, from the 1958 state champion PHS football team, and former PHS wrestling coach Joe Handlan.
They were given a tour of PHS earlier in the day.
Allen and the late Steve Jackson were co-captains of the 1959 Big Red football team.
McCoy believes PHS had the finest football coaches in the state during this time: head coach Russ Parsons and assistants Bill Pugh, Sam Mandich, Paul “Hoss” Starr and Bob Dutton.
Holman, a halfback on the PHS football teams of 1958-59, said the Big Red coaching staff during this era developed a fantastic offense, with many facets, that could adapt to any game situation.
“We could move people around … it was a secret to our success,” he said.
The PHS coaches were dedicated to the details of the game, he said.
Holman said he learned coaching strategies from Parsons that he used later as a high school football coach in Ohio, including working on the staffs of three state championship teams.
“I felt prepared to coach because of the fundamentals used at PHS,” said Holman, who played linebacker at West Virginia Tech for four years.
Besides the excellent coaching staff, Holman said, the PHS football teams of 1958 and 1959 had chemistry among the players, who had a desire to excel.
“We thought a lot about each other,” Holman said, saying everyone on the teams got along well. “I would do anything to help the other guys be successful,” he said.
Stoops was a linebacker on the 1958 and ’59 Big Red football teams and a state wrestling champion in 1959 and 1960.
“Roger would make tackles all over the field,” Holman said.
Stoops said it was great seeing his former Big Red teammates at this month’s reunion. “We don’t see each other as much anymore,” he said.
Stoops, who retired from DuPont, said there were great times while he was attending PHS and enjoyed being around a “good bunch of people then,” such as McCoy, Allen, Jeff Jenkins, Steve Jackson and others.
Hayden was first-team all-state in football in 1959 and received a scholarship from Ohio University. He transferred to Morehead State University where he played baseball. Hayden was head football coach at Parkersburg South High School, athletic director at Parkersburg High School and retired as executive director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
“I feel fortunate to be a part of those teams” at PHS, Hayden said. The PHS teammates remain his good friends, Hayden said, and he has “lasting memories” of his high school days.
Dyer noted how successful the PHS athletic teams were during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The 1960 basketball team won the state championship, the 1959 football team was state runner-up and the 1960 baseball team was state runner-up.
Dyer played all three sports at PHS — including being quarterback of the 1959 football team — and played baseball at West Virginia University. He retired from Dyer Insurance Agency of Clarksburg.
“Most importantly it was the friendships and camaraderie that I made and had through my athletic endeavors growing up in Parkersburg that have sustained me throughout my life,” Dyer said. “I guess if I could go through again I’d be most happy to play it the same way,” Dyer said.
Dyer’s memories of Parkersburg in the 1950s and early ’60s include drive-in restaurants, rock ‘n’ roll and winning teams — “Happy Days,” he said.
McCoy said he was blessed to grow up in Parkersburg in the 1950s.
“Having dreamed of playing for the PHS Big Reds and having that dream come true was another blessing,” said McCoy, who was general manager for GTE Florida Consumer Business when he retired.
His two years on the successful PHS football teams produced “a bond of caring for one another that lingers to this day,” McCoy said. McCoy considers several of his PHS football teammates to be dear friends.
McCoy received a full scholarship to play football at Morehead State University. A knee injury ended his football career at Morehead, where he played guard/linebacker as a freshman.
At this month’s reunion the PHS Class of 1960 football players mentioned big wins over the former Washington Irving High School of Clarksburg in 1959 and over Weirton High School in 1958. Hundreds of Big Red fans rode the train to Clarksburg to see PHS defeat a WI team that featured several outstanding players.
Allen said his goal as a young kid was to be a Big Red football player and team captain. He accomplished both goals in the fall of 1959.
“As a kid I talked about the Friday night (football) games,” Allen said. On Saturday mornings, Allen, his father, great uncle and others would gather at a store on Juliana Street to talk about the PHS football games.
“Parents got two tickets to sit on the 50-yard line” at the packed Stadium Field, Allen said. “It was a good time.”
Allen played football and baseball his freshman year at Fairmont State University before a football injury derailed his college athletic career.
Playing high school football and baseball allowed him to travel throughout West Virginia, Allen noted.
And as members of the state champion Parkersburg American Legion baseball team in the summer of 1959, Allen, Dyer, Hayden, Holman and others visited the U.S. Capitol.
Allen has stayed involved with PHS athletics as a volunteer. He has supervised the Stadium Field pressbox, placed advertising signs around the stadium, helped opposing teams set up along the Stadium Field sidelines, helped people reach their seats, and volunteered for other duties at PHS.
“It’s been a labor of love, fun,” Allen said about his volunteerism at PHS.
Allen added that it has been an honor and privilege to give back to the school and community that have given him so much.