By Dan Stillwell
Two former Raleigh County high school football coaches will be inducted Saturday into the National Single Wing Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Clear Fork High School’s Don Gibson and Shady Spring’s Marv “The Bear” Wetzel will be honored at the 14th annual National Single Wing Symposium in Edwardsville, Ill.
Gibson, from Helen, became head football coach at New Mexico Highlands University in 1953. He recruited numerous southern West Virginia players during his stint at the school.
His first season, he brought in Shady Spring’s Perry Harper along with two players from Stoco High School, two from Stratton, two from Clear Fork and one from Marsh Fork.
“A lot of us wouldn’t have gotten an education if he hadn’t recruited us,” said Harper, a retired educator now living in Corrales, N.M. “He coached hundreds of kids form West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.”
Former Independence High School coach and principal Wayne Peters went west to play for Gibson, as did former Stoco and Independence coach Tony Castanon.
Lineman Stanley Hayes and fullback Jim Locke, both from Mullens, and Clear Fork halfback Fred Stover also made their way out to Las Vegas, N.M., to play at New Mexico Highlands.
Before Gibson’s arrival, the Cowboys had won one game the past two years. They were 0-8 his first season, but went 5-2-1, 6-3 and 5-2-1 the next three.
“Coach ran the single-wing, the same as (legendary coach) Cam Henderson at Marshall,” said Harper, who started four years at center for Gibson and earned All-Frontier Conference honors. “He said we’d be in shape and know the plays and we were. We played at an elevation of 7,000 feet.”
The Cowboys were known for their discipline on and off the field.
“He was a no-nonsense guy,” Harper said. “Several letters came in to (school president) Dr. Donnelly because of the way we behaved and dressed.”
Thomas Donnelly had been a member of the faculty at Marshall University. Harper said when Donnelly took over at New Mexico Highlands, he called Henderson and said he needed a coach.
Henderson told him about Harper, who had played for him and was the team’s MVP in the 1948 Tangerine Bowl.
Gibson coached football through the 1963-64 school year. Among his top players were Lionel Taylor, who went on to play for the Broncos and was an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for three Super Bowl seasons; Hinton’s Monty Crockett, who played for the Buffalo Bills; Stoco’s Bill Miller, who was recruited by the Houston Oilers; and Logan County’s Charlie Cowan, a Pro Bowler for the Los Angeles Rams.
The Frontier Conference named Gibson coach of the year in 1960. The Cowboys were league co-champions with a 6-2-1 record.
Gibson also coached basketball at the school and reached the NAIA quarterfinals in 1960.
He left New Mexico Highlands after the 1963-64 season and went on to become a high school coach and administrator in Madeira, Calif.
Wetzel, a former Marshall fullback and teammate of Gibson, joined him at Highlands in 1958 and coached until Gibson’s departure.
The Marlinton native went on to have great success at Trinidad Junior College in Trinidad, Colo., and later coached at a high school.
At Marshall, Wetzel played both offense and defense and scored 108 points in 1947, third-best in the country.
Both Wetzel and Gibson are members of the Marshall University Hall of Fame.
Gibson, now 85, lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Wetzel died several years ago in Denver.