Evans “Buddy” King
This column is on the most significant sporting events in Montgomery County during “my time.”
I consider “my time” to be from the late 1950’s till I graduated from Christiansburg High in 1971.
I was in attendance at each of the games I have selected, and the only other criteria is that the game was meaningful to me. Some are of historical significance and a few are whimsical.
It is quite possible that the editor will say this piece isn’t worth printing and no one will ever read it. But it will be fun for me to write regardless. Please forgive any slight factual errors as I am writing from memory. I know I got the winners right. Here goes.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, basketball, January 1960
The first game ever at the Coliseum. I was a first grader, and my Dad took me. I remember that the seats had not been installed so we sat on the concrete floors. My prior statement to the contrary, I do not remember who won. I do remember that the Coliseum was the grandest edifice I had ever seen, and I took great umbrage many years later when commentators started referring to it as “dingy.”
This was the first of what seems like hundreds of Tech and high school district, regional and state tournament games (and a few NCAA tournament games) that I attended over the years at the Coliseum.
(Editor’s note: VT won 91-67)
Virginia Tech 20 Florida State 11, football, October 1964
FSU came into Blacksburg undefeated and the number 10 team in the country. The Noles were led by future NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, quarterback Steve Tensi and Coach Bill Petersen. FSU was not yet the national powerhouse it was to become, but this was the team that started them in that direction.
They clearly took the Hokies lightly, who played with the fanaticism on defense and stoicism on offense, which were the trademarks of the Jerry Claiborne coached teams of the 1960’s.
It was as crisp and beautiful a fall day as you will ever see and epitomizes my memories of college football Saturdays in the 1960’s. This was the penultimate game at old Miles Stadium, with the last game being a loss to NC State or Wake a few weeks later as I recall. This day is a shining memory of my childhood, and I remember sitting in the bleachers with my parents at the top of the hill in the end zone across from the entrance to the Coliseum.
Virginia Group 2 State Track Championship, May 1958
Christiansburg High won the state championship at this meet, which was held at old Lambeth Field at the University of Virginia.
My cousin Joe Board, who lived up the street from me, won the 100, the 220 and the long jump, as well as anchoring two winning relay teams. Only one other CHS kid contributed points, but it was enough to give CHS the championship.
This venue was the site of many future track meets where Joe starred during his years at UVA. I was only four years old but have vague memories of this special day.
The CHS team was coached by J.E. “Buddy” Earp, who was featured along with Joe in an excellent article in the Roanoke Times on the 50th anniversary of the championship.
Alabama 17 vs. Virginia Tech 13, football, September 1969
Bear Bryant brought the Crimson Tide, in the midst of a more than two-decade run as an annual national championship contender, into Lane Stadium.
This was a remarkable compliment to the progress of the Tech program, with a smidgen of a favor to Tech Coach Jerry Claiborne who had played for the Bear at Kentucky, tossed in. It rained, and my Mom took me to the game along with my friend Greg.
We left at the half because I had a game that night for CHS against Wytheville. Bama won, but it was closer than expected because of the typical staunch Tech defense of the era. In 1973 after Claiborne had left for Maryland, Bama beat Tech in Birmingham 77-6 in Tuscaloosa. Claiborne’s semi-forced departure from Blacksburg had started the “Coffee-Sharpe Curse” of the 70’s.
CHS 7 vs. BHS 7, football, November 1963
This game has to be one of the most important games ever played between the two schools. They entered the game at the old high school on Main Street in Blacksburg with BHS at 9-0 and CHS at 8-1.
CHS lost the week before to Giles because our wonderful QB Roger Woolwine was not able to play. The game was for the New River District Championship, with a tie giving BHS the title.
The Blue Demons were driving late with the score tied, around the Indian 10 yard line, when they got called for holding. CHS Coach Omar Ross (later my 8th grade coach and the best coach I ever played for) took exception, and the referees assessed a couple of more 15 yarder’s and the drive was over.
My Dad was Superintendent of Schools at the time and made a practice of sitting on each school’s side for a half. I was 10 years old and remember my “shame” at having to sit on the Blacksburg side during the second half.
I also remember not a word being said by my parents all the way back from Blacksburg. Later when I played for CHS, Curtis “Ducky” Gray, principal of BHS and a wonderful educator who recently passed away, told my father that he did not expect him to sit on both sides during CHS vs BHS games with me on the field.
Virginia Tech 9, William & Mary 7, football, Oct. 2, 1965
It was the first game at Lane Stadium. Later in the season the stadium was dedicated in a game with UVA and I was there too.
Until Lane was built, many schools refused to play in Blacksburg because of Miles Stadium’s 14,000 seating capacity. The Gobblers as they were known then played two or three games a year at Miles and had several “home games” a year at Victory Stadium in Roanoke and City Stadium in Richmond.
My Dad bought the family plan season ticket package – $4 for the father, $3 for the mother and $2 for kids. My Dad often preferred the pleasures of golfing to trips to Lane, and I would be allowed to take a friend on his ticket.
I found out eventually that he did not share my love of Tech sports (or the NY Yankees) and was relieved when I cast both aside as childhood things. On an interesting side note, W&M was coached by Marv Levy who went on to lose four Super Bowls as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
CHS vs. Hillsville, NRV District Baseball Championship, 1964
I might be off a year. I have a wonderful memory of my dad driving me (cousin Bobby rode along) to Wytheville for the game on a Saturday night. Our neighbor Carl King pitched a wonderful game, but we lost in a pitcher’s duel.
The CHS team had a number of players who were my heroes on the diamond and the football field. Classic “Christiansburg guys,” Carl went on to pitch a season in the Pirates organization, which makes him one of the town’s all time leading citizens in my opinion.
BHS vs. Pulaski, NRV District Basketball Championship, 1964
The teams entered the game each 20-0, the district having expanded and the Indians and the Orioles not facing each other in the regular season.
BHS won by two as I recall, led by Tot Martin and 6’ 7” freshman Rick Aydlett. Pulaski’s star was a kid named Ratcliffe.
The game was at the Coliseum and the two teams met there again a couple of weeks later in the regional finals. BHS won again and then went on to win the state title.
Aydlett’s team won the state crown again his senior year. BHS was coached by Alan Wiley who won umpteen state championships, and is one of the great coaches in county history.
Virginia Tech freshmen vs. UNC freshmen basketball, January 1965
Freshmen could not play on varsity at this time, so their games were prelims. UNC had a vaunted freshmen team with stars Dick Grubar, Bill Bunting and Rusty Clark, although they were far over-shadowed by Lew Alcindor’s UCLA freshman team.
Tech dominated and won by 20 or so. As I recall, there were several future stars on the Hokie squad, but my hero was Chris Ellis who played like I thought I did at the time – a shutdown on-ball defender.
The varsity game that night was against Purdue and its All-American Rick Mount. The night was historic too in that 13,000 were allowed in the Coliseum, with every nook and cranny filled and people sitting on the steps. The fire officials were apoplectic and it never happened again.
Miami 14, Virginia Tech 7, football, November 1967
The Hokies had lost to the Hurricanes by the identical score in the Liberty Bowl the previous December.
Miami was led by the “Mad Stork” Ted Hendricks who went on to a long and distinguished NFL career with the Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Colts.
Tech had about as much chance of scoring on offense as Christiansburg High School would have, but, as usual for the Claiborne era teams, the defense kept them in the game.
The Tech star was Frankie Loria, an All-American safety, who scored on an 80 yard punt return in the second half but Miami scored late to win. Loria, who died three years later in the Marshall plane crash, was everybody’s hero, especially mine.
Somewhat ironically, I have lived and worked most of my adult life in the city where Frankie grew up and have run in a circle of friends who were his teammates and friends at nearby Notre Dame High School. I got to know his widow a little and talked about his career with her.
Honorable mention: (1) CHS beats Pulaski 6 – 0 in 1957 in the season opener at historic Calfee Park in Pulaski. Cousin Joe returns a fumble 60 yards for a TD to win the game in the 4th quarter.
I was only four but have vague memories, particularly of my father removing our town license plate before the trip because of the “tendencies” of Pulaski fans. (2) CHS beats Dublin 14 – 8 in 1969.
The 2nd game of the season and the Dukes had beaten Narrows 48 – 0 the week before. Jerry Carter (NRV back of the year the next year) returned a punt for a TD and Larry Epperly had a long run for a TD. It was my junior year and my first true varsity experience. Our Coach put me in with 4 minutes to go at linebacker and told me to “blitz every down.”
I don’t think I made a single solo tackle but I had several QB “hurries”, including one on the last play of the game. One of the happiest moments of my athletic career. (3) CHS 8th grade beats BHS in 8th grade in Football, Sept 1966. CHS and BHS were both grades 8 – 12 at the time and this was the first game of the year and the beginning of high school for my class. I was our captain and Jerry Claiborne’s (see above) son David was the BHS captain.
I was thrilled to be on the same field with him because of my respect for Coach Claiborne. I played every play of the game. Our star was Alan Johnson, who was a man among boys at running back. It was also the first year of fully desegregated schools and a rallying point I think for the black and white kids in my class who truly bonded in our dislike of BHS.
(4) The Virginia Tech Cross-Country Invitational was run in near blizzard conditions a Saturday or two before Christmas in 1963 when I was 10 years old. It was a combined collegiate/high school event and there were dozens of high schools and colleges from around the region competing in individual and relay races. The relay was run along a blocked off portion of Route 460, starting in downtown Blacksburg and ending at the courthouse in Christiansburg.
My cousin Bobby Board was running for CHS and ran a leg that was almost straight uphill. The Blue Demons won the high school division, and I watched Bobby’s leg with his brother Joe and Joe’s wife Martha, who were in from law school at UVA for the holiday.
It was a beautiful snowy and icy Saturday morning and is a wonderful Christmas memory of mine.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this; it was great fun to write.
Evans “Buddy” King grew up in Christiansburg and graduated from CHS in 1971. He lives in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he practices law with the firm of Steptoe and Johnson PLLC.