By Jim Stout
Hold it and they will come.
Especially if Ken Halloy is involved.
Halloy, the Bridgeport, W.Va., native who helped turn the Kirk Herbstreit Ohio vs. USA Challenge into a brand name event, is well on his way to success in another Labor Day weekend extravaganza, this one in his home state.
The inaugural Friends of Coal Prep Football Classic is set for Monday, Sept. 1, at the 12,000-seat Wheeling Island Stadium in Wheeling, W.Va. It’s difficult to imagine a better first-time lineup of teams.
The noon tripleheader will be comprised by six schools from four states that went a combined 74-8 in 2007 and won three state championships, with two of the three titles being captured in the grueling Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs.
What’s better than a 16-0 team (Pittsburgh Central Catholic) coming to your event? How about a team (Lakeland, Fla.) that has gone 149-13 over the previous 12 seasons? How about if they play each other?
How about if another 16-0 Pennsylvania state champ, Thomas Jefferson, plays a Cleveland Glenville team that has won 72 consecutive games in the Cleveland Senate League?
“It’s mindboggling to me the support we’ve had,” Halloy told the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register.
One of Halloy’s first breaks in putting Friends of Coal together was when he received a commitment from Lakeland coach Bill Castle, who in 2007 was named the Florida High School Athletic Association Coach of the Century.
You read that correctly: Coach of the Century…as in the previous 100 years.
“If it had been anybody other than Ken (organizing the event), I would have had to look at it a little more closely,” said Castle, who had taken his fabled Dreadnaughts to the Ohio vs. USA Challenge in 2006 to play St. Xavier of Cincinnati.
“But Ken was associated with the Kirk Herbstreit Classic…it left such a good taste in our fans, our players and coaches that when he called, I just felt like we couldn’t pass it up. I said when we left that one, if we ever had a chance to do it again, we’d do it again for the kids. This is a different group. None of these kids went on that (Ohio) trip. Every time we get an opportunity to do that for the kids, we’re going to take it.”
Pittsburgh Central Catholic coach Terry Totten knows he’s in for a major challenge with Lakeland as an opponent in the 3 p.m. game. The same rings true for Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak, whose team faces Cleveland Glenville in the noon opener.
“We look forward to the opportunity to line up against a great Glenville team,” Cherpak said. “We enjoy challenges and we certainly took on a big one when we accepted the invitation to play in this outstanding event.”
The Friends of Coal Prep Football Classic will take on a decidedly local and home team look in Game Three of the tripleheader, when Wheeling Central Catholic takes on nearby Steubenville (Ohio) Central Catholic at 6 p.m.
One of the many appealing aspects of the event is this: you don’t have to be playing for a national title to be included. Game 3 will show there’s a grand regional stage for the venerable smaller schools, too.
“It’s a great honor to be included in the inaugural Friends of Coal Classic,” Wheeling Central Catholic coach Mike Young said. “The event will provide great exposure for the Ohio Valley and we hope to represent ourselves well with good play on the field against an always-strong Steubenville Catholic Central team.”
Off the field, the Friends of Coal Classic will include a Sunday night “Evening with Don Nehlen & Friends,” a tribute to the former West Virginia University football coach at WesBanco Arena.
The event will be emceed by former ESPN personality Roy Firestone and include college football coaching luminaries such as John Cooper (Arizona State, Ohio State), Terry Donahue (UCLA), Vince Dooley (Georgia), Pat Dye (Auburn), LaVell Edwards (Brigham Young), Hayden Fry (Iowa), Don James (Washington), Frank Kush (Arizona State), Dick MacPherson (Syracuse), Bill Mallory (Colorado, Indiana), Tom Osborne (Nebraska), John Ralston (Stanford), John Robinson (USC), R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M), Gene Stallings (Alabama) and George Welsh (Virginia).
Halloy, who is president of Halloy Boy Sports Marketing Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, lined up major sponsors in Wheeling Hospital, The Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley and Stoney Hollow Tire, along with media sponsors The Intelligencer, the Wheeling News-Register, the Times Leader, the Herald-Star, the Weirton Daily Times, WTOV-TV and WKKX.
Here’s a look at the rich and compelling history that teams will bring to the inaugural Friends of Coal Prep Football Classic on Labor Day at Wheeling Island Stadium:
Game One, noon: Cleveland Glenville vs. Thomas Jefferson (Pa.)
* During the 2006 college football season, Glenville had seven of its graduates on the Ohio State roster.
* In 1999, Glenville became the first Cleveland municipal school to reach the state playoffs, and made five more appearances from 2000 to 2005.
* Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. coached Heisman Trophy winner and former Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, and is also the father of Miami Dolphins wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
* In 2005, Ted Ginn Sr. led Glenville to a 12-1 record, advancing the Tarblooders to the regional round of the state playoffs.
* In 2001, Ginn was an assistant coach in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and was head coach in 2006 when he led the East squad to victory.
* Thomas Jefferson won the Pennsylvania AAA championship last season, becoming the first AAA team in state history to finish with a 16-0 record.
* The Jaguars beat Garnet Valley, 28-3, in the state championship game. They also won the state title in 2004.
* Thomas Jefferson won the WPIAL 3A title (western Pennsylvania) last season as well, and has won 11 conference championships overall.
* During the past five seasons, Jefferson has compiled a 42-3 regular-season record, outscoring the opposition by a 1,630-317 margin.
* Jefferson as not lost consecutive games since the 2001 season.
Game Two, 3 p.m.: Lakeland, Fla. vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic
* Lakeland was the 2005 USA Today National Champion and finished No. 1 in two national polls following the 2006 season.
* Since 1996, Lakeland has won 92 percent of its games, posting a 149-13 record during that time. It won three consecutive state championships (2004-2006) in Florida’s Class 5A.
* Lakeland has won six state titles (1986, 1996, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2006), second-most in Florida history.
* In 2007, the University of Florida, coming off a BCS National Championship, signed seven Lakeland players to football scholarships.
* Lakeland won 53 consecutive games, including the playoffs, from 2005-2007, and has appeared in the state playoffs 20 times.
* Entering his 33rd season, Lakeland coach Bill Castle has never experienced a losing season with the Dreadnaughts. His overall record is 308-74.
Pittsburgh Central Catholic:
* Coach Terry Totten’s four-year record at the school is 36-4 (a .900 winning percentage).
* Pittsburgh Central Catholic won the 2007 Class AAAA Pennsylvania title, finishing with a 16-0 record, and also beat Northmont, Ohio, 34-6, in the 2007 Herbstreit Challenge.
* The Vikings’ 21-0 championship win last season over Parkland was the first shutout in the 20-year history of the Class AAAA title games.
* Pittsburgh Central Catholic is one of only two schools to win three PIAA titles (1988, 2004 and 2007). The 2004 Vikings went 16-0 and is considered one of the best teams in Pennsylvania history.
*Pittsburgh Central Catholic also won the WPIAL 4A title last season.
Game Three, 6 p.m.: Steubenville Central Catholic vs. Wheeling Central Catholic
Steubenville Catholic Central:
* Steubenville won the Ohio Division V state championship in 1993 and was the Division VI state runner-up in 2005.
* Prior to the arrival of the state playoff system, Steubenville topped the 1971 AP/UPI Division AA state poll.
* Steubenville Catholic Central won Ohio Valley Athletic Conference titles in 1980, 1983, 1984, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995.
* The Crusaders also made appearances in 1989, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2004 and 2007.
Wheeling Central Catholic:
* Wheeling Central Catholic enters the 2008 season riding a 33-game win streak. The Maroon Knights have won four consecutive West Virginia state titles – they’re a strong favorite to capture a fifth – and have won six state crowns in the last eight seasons.
* Coach Mike Young has led his school to state titles in all three seasons as coach. His overall record there is 38-4.
* The Maroon Knights finished the 2007 season ranked No. 3 in the state among all schools by Maxpreps.com. They dominated Williamstown in the state title game, 51-14, and scored a total of 703 points in their 14 games.
* Wheeling Central Catholic was recently rated by Sports Illustrated as having the top overall high school athletic program in the state of West Virginia.
Jim Stout is the MaxPreps.com Media Manager for the Eastern United States, as well as a writer and photographer. He may be reached at 845-367-2864 or at email@example.com.