By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Since the day Shady Spring High School moved to Class AAA in 2012, there’s been one question uttered a lot in Raleigh County: Why aren’t Woodrow Wilson and Shady Spring playing in football?
It turns out, it’s a question one legendary Flying Eagle has been asking, as well.
“Why aren’t they playing?” Woodrow Wilson Hall of Famer and former Marshall University head coach Bob Pruett said. “Aren’t they both AAA football teams? I think it would be great.”
Pruett feels that Woodrow and Shady could turn into one of the state’s top rivalries.
“That’d be quite a rivalry game,” he said. “When I was here, Mullens and Mount Hope were big rival games, and Oak Hill. So I mean, why not? Why aren’t they scheduled?”
While Pruett may be a Flying Eagle, he likely identifies with the new kid on the block in Shady, comparing it to a rivalry of his past.
“Is this like a West Virginia-Marshall thing?” Pruett said, referring to West Virginia University’s reluctance to consider Marshall a rival, due to the thinking that the Mountaineers had everything to lose and nothing to gain by beating the Thundering Herd.
Pruett said that despite that sentiment, he felt the rivalry between the state’s two Division I schools was exciting. He only coached in the game once, a 42-31 Marshall loss in Morgantown on Aug. 30, 1997.
“It was a thrill for me growing up in the state to go up there and play,” he said. “The only thing was I didn’t want to go in there and play every time. They didn’t want to share.
“That could be the problem with Woodrow and Shady. Maybe we’ll fix up Bobby Pruett Stadium and they can play up there on a neutral field. We’ll put turf down. How’s that?”
Bob Pruett Stadium sits beside Park Middle School and was named in honor of the state football legend in 2008.
“I think it would be great. It would be awesome,” Pruett said of a potential Woodrow-Shady rivalry. “Anything that creates excitement and rivalry is really good, especially in this state, because you can imagine how they would talk about it year round. Hopefully they’ll get it together and make it happen.”
The 1961 Woodrow Wilson graduate only had high praises for the current Woodrow program, including coach John H. Lilly, who has developed quite a friendship with Pruett.
“I’m really excited about Woodrow football,” Pruett said. “I think Coach Lilly has made a comeback here, and he’s doing a good job. He texts me every time someone does good, and I try to get up and watch them practice and talk to their team. I’m pretty excited about it.”
Pruett played under coach Nelson Bragg at Woodrow, before going on to play halfback and tight end for the Thundering Herd. The Woodrow program still means a lot to the all-time wins coach in Marshall history.
“Well growing up in East Beckley, Woodrow Wilson football as awesome. After you got to the sixth grade, all the older guys would give you spring and fall tickets,” Pruett said with a laugh. “You’d spring the fence and fall to the ground to watch the games.
“But that first time you got to put that red jersey on, it was something special,” Pruett added. “We are the Eagles! The mighty, mighty Eagles! Everywhere we go, people want to know. We are the mighty, mighty Eagles! I don’t remember much, but I remember being a Flying Eagle. It was just a thrill and one of the best thrills I’ve had in all of sports.”
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.