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Northfork Blue Demons (WV) and Kentucky Wildcats Two Proud Basketball Traditions

I personally myself would have actually attended Northfork High School if it hadn't been closed and consolidated with Mount View High School near Welch. Mount View has a grand total of 0 state titles in any sport have, which to me is completely unacceptable with all the great athletic talent they had then and still have today, and not just from Northfork either. Gary High School Coaldiggers and Welch High School Maroon Wave were not only Northfork's toughest rivals but they were also often the 2nd and 3rd best teams in both McDowell County and often the entire state of West Virginia itself believe it or not, not only in basketball but football as well. Gary had multiple titles, Northfork had one, and Welch also one I think. Ironically Gary and Welch High schools were actually closed in 1978 (or 1977 I forget which) and consolidated with each other to form Mt. View High School, actually located on top of a mountain, which is actually very difficult to drive up there especially in the morning we went to school since the sun would often hit right in the bus driver's face. The history of the Northfork Blue Demons' athletic teams, especially the Northfork Blue Demons' men's and women's basketball teams during the 70s and 80s, has often attracted attention not just statewide but nationally and internationally as well. Northfork's famous basketball coach Jennings Boyd won 8 or 9 of the titles (again I forget which). Coach Boyd stressed a team game instead of an individual one, and thus only one of his players even played Division 1-A basketball, but he was a great one. Russell Todd was his name. He played for WVU back in the early 80s, which were arguably WVU's best seasons before WVU's recent success in the mid 2000s. Coach Boyd also demanded his players act like gentlemen off the court as well. The same was mostly true for the most part at U of Kentucky. Kentucky's fans not only expect perfection on the court but off the court as well. The same was true for Northfork's Blue Demons... Kentucky's titles are spread out in time while Northfork's were right close to together for the most part. Both teams had played fast break basketball over the years. Adolph Rupp Kentucky's famous head coach actually originated this "fast pace" style of play, and that was famous Northfork coach Jennings Boyd's coaching philosophy as well. There are actually a lot of similarities between the Blue Demons and the Wildcats but a ton of differences as well. Northfork High's men basketball team won a record eight straight class AA titles between 1974 and 1981, and won 10 overall, also winning in 1971 and 1984. The Kentucky Wildcats have won 8 national titles up to date: 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1978, 1996, 1998and our last one back in 2012. Northfork's women's basketball team also won three state championships. Northfork's football team even won a state title as well. The other high school in McDowell County was actually built just this year: named River View High School. Iaeger and Big Creek High Schools were closed and consolidated just this past year. Northfork's men basketball team usually beat much larger schools. Kentucky's basketball team has also succeeded against some very tough opponents as well over the years. It's really quite surprising that Northfork's nickname is the Blue Demons, considering the fact that McDowell County is in the heart of the Bible Belt and even more so Pentecostal country here in McDowell County, West Virginia, with one of the largest percentages of Pentecostals not just in West Virginia but in the entire United States as well. Growing up here in McDowell County and a lifelong resident I was actually personally affected when Northfork High was closed and consolidated after the 1984-85 school year. My grandparents were actually central in the fight to try and stop Northfork's closure. The McDowell County school board in an attempt to save millions of dollars in expensive repairs to schools back then decided to close and consolidate Northfork High and transfer its students to Mt. View High School in Welch for the 1985-86 school year, me included. Northfork's supporters won the first stage after hiring a Parkersburg lawyer for $150,000, all of it yes 100 percent of it was raised by those very same Northfork supporters themselves, when the Circuit Judge from McDowell County ruled in their favor in 1985. However the West Virginia State Board of Education ruled against them and so did the West Virginia State Supreme Court the highest state court in West Virginia as well. His ruling was eventually overturned by all West Virginia state courts after his decision. For many Northfork students basketball was seen as a way to leave the poverty and lack of employment here in McDowell County far behind them. Most of them sadly were forced to leave and many of them have sadly not returned back to McDowell County even to visit, mostly because of the extreme poverty and lack of jobs their ancestors experienced here in McDowell County. Northfork was a AA school during the 70s and 80s at that time. Northfork was so talented at the time that their teams usually went 12 deep on the bench instead of just 7 or 8 like most high schools even than most larger AAA ones at the time. Their fast-break offense and hard-nosed pressing defense were very revolutionary and very unique as well. Their playing style has actually been similar to that to Kentucky's famous basketball teams most of the time. Hmmm.... Northfork's men's basketball team more often than not defeated much larger AAA schools with much higher student bodies by quite substantial margins of victory. Northfork was almost unstoppable at home, where they won 95 to 100 percent of their games during their incredible run. In fact a huge rivalry here in southern West Virginia during the late 70s and early 80s was between the Blue Demons and AAA powerhouse at the time the Princeton Tigers and famous Virginia Cavaliers' grad, college basketball star, and NBA player Jimmie Miller. I think Miller himself once said that Northfork was by far the best and most talented team he ever played against, and that even included the NBA and college basketball as well believe it or not! Northfork was often one of if not the very best team in West Virginia in all three classes: AAA, AA, and A, back in the 70s and early to mid-80s. Northfork also had a Hall of Fame Legendary coach at the time named Jennings Boyd. Coach Boyd ran a very tight ship. He forced his players to wear suits and ties on game day before tip off. If he spotted a male player and a female in the same house at the same he'd most definitely discipline him 100 percent certain. Coach Boyd stressed a "team" game instead of an "individual" one. He believed in teams with 12 good players instead of teams with 1 or 2 superstars. Thus despite all Northfork's tremendous successes and state championships only 1 Northfork men's basketball player, the afore-mentioned Russell Todd, ever played NCAA Div. 1-A college basketball But Todd in fact was a superstar. He was voted one of WVU's top 10 players if not the top 5 in the West Virginia Mountaineers' entire men's basketball history. Northfork won 10 men's AA basketball championships and a record 8 straight from the mid 70s to the early 80s from 1974 to 1981. They also won state titles in '71 and '84, the next-to-last year before Northfork High was closed for good. Northfork's Lady Demons also won 3 AA West Virginia state championships. And Northfork even won a West Virginia AA Football title in the early to mid '70s as well, and Northfork grad Tom Beasley even was a star player at Virginia Tech, and won several Super Bowl rings as Mean Joe Greene's backup on those great Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in the mid to late 70s. But Northfork's players were not only great on the athletic field but excelled in the classroom and as private citizens as well. Coach Boyd and the rest of the Northfork coaching staff along with their parents made 100 percent certain of that. Again many if not most of Northfork's terrific athletes left McDowell County and southern West Virginia for good, never to return back even once, not even to visit. Sad but true. In fact, Northfork's gymnasium often was often crowded and packed to the seams, most of time at standing-room only. At that troubled time of our history during the late 70s and early 80s, Northfork's successes on the basketball court were most definitely a welcome escape during those troubled economic times when many coal companies had just started trimming their work forces in droves during that period of time. Sadly today Northfork's gymnasium is currently literally falling apart at the seams, and the floods here in McDowell County actually damaged if not completely destroyed most of their keepsakes, pictures, and I think even their trophies too. Sad but true.... However the memories of the Northfork Demons' basketball teams and Coach Boyd will never fade away....

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