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New rivalry born in McDowell

New rivalry born in McDowell
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WELCH — When the brand spanking new River View Raiders invade Golden Knight Stadium tonight for the inaugural battle of the Mc-Views, the two teams will be bringing a lot of coalfield history to the gridiron. In 1978, Mount View High School emerged with the consolidation of Gary High School and Welch High School. Northfork High School joined Mount View in the early 1980s.

“After going through the transition from a segregated school to an integrated school in Gary, we had to go through another transition after consolidating Gary, Welch and Northfork to become Mount View,” Ergie Smith said. “There was no rivalry around here at the time as big as the rivalry between Gary and Welch. We made it, and I think the kids coming from Iaeger and Big Creek high schools will make it too.”

Smith coached basketball and won a state championship at the segregated Gary District High School until 1965, when the black school integrated with Gary High School. Smith didn’t get the opportunity to coach an the integrated Gary High School until 1972, but when he did, Smith responded by leading his team to another state basketball championship in the spring of 1973. Five years later, Smith became the basketball coach at Mount View.

“The key to being successful in any new school is leadership,” Smith said. “In any new school system, it takes time to develop the chemistry to build a solid sports program. We didn’t win a state championship at Mount View, but several of our players were successful in their lives.”

Smith said he appreciates the way former Iaeger head football coach Mitch Estep, who is now the Raiders’ head coach as well as former Big Creek head football coach, Mike Vallo, now an assistant coach for the Raiders, handled the transition.

“If the coaches had not gotten along with each other, it would have been more difficult, but these two coaches genuinely like each other,” Smith said. “As far as the kids are concerned, I think they want to prove something.”

After he left the coaching ranks, Smith has worked as an official for scholastic football. “I worked the final Ieager-Big Creek game last week,” Smith said. “The players were naturally competitive and wanted to beat each other, but they got together after the game. The players got along and the coaches like each other. It makes a difference.

“Sure, it’s a big story when two schools meet for the first time,” Smith said. “It’s a big deal, but when you have good leadership, it doesn’t have to be a bad experience.”

Smith said he thinks the Raiders-Golden Knight game will be fun.

— Contact Bill Archer at