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RON’S RAMBLINGS

Ron Gregory ronjgregory@gmail.com

December 24, 2013

Since it is the double-holiday season of December 25 and New Year’s, my triumphant return to Hamlin enters my mind this week.


Actually, the basketball season serves as a perfect example of how all things work together to produce amazing results. I am writing, in this case, of the scheduled visit by Scott High School’s boys basketball team to Lincoln County High on February 14, 2014.


Headed to Hamlin for Valentine’s Day. What a ring that has to it! Perfect timing. Everything I could have dreamed of.


Discussing my pending arrival with some has brought forth suggestions that my fans in Hamlin will probably prepare something “special” for my return. Oh, how those fans wish I was still covering their Panthers. Wait a minute … I NEVER covered their Panthers, even when I was The Lincoln Journal’s sports editor. But, that’s just a minor detail in an otherwise touching story line.


Everyone knows how much I think of Hamlin. And the feeling is mutual from many Hamlinites. It is a match made in hell, which is a synonym for Hamlin.


The something “special” most have settled on, I understand, is a paper or vinyl heart I can run through as I enter the Panther gymnasium for the first time covering Scott. It will be a splendid tribute to a relationship that has been lasting and meaningful. Me and Hamlin; Hamlin and me. Ah, my.


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My only fear is that I am six-foot tall and Hamlin friends have told me they are manufacturing the hard-steel frame that will hold my vinyl heart at five-foot, six. I hope they correct that or I might ram my head into the steel frame as I joyfully enter the floor.


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I surely won’t have time to measure the height as my adoring fans give me a standing ovation.


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I can’t wait to hear Cory Beck’s “welcome back, Ron” speech. I understand he will deliver it at halftime with Scott leading by 30 points.


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I have routinely called the Panthers “hapless” but after seeing them play Scott last week, I may have to change it to “helpless.” My goodness! A Triple A team that plays THAT poorly is … well, also amazing.


My conclusion remains that one cannot blame the coaching staff because the team is in the cellar looking up. The fact remains that LCHS, athletically at least, is a consolidation of two old Class A schools: Hamlin and Guyan Valley. There is an occasional Duval player in the mix, but not many. Harts athletes and students attend their home high school at Chapmanville. LCHS cannot compete at the Triple A level where they are assigned.


John Wooden would have a tough time winning at LCHS, even as they keep downgrading the program trying to find a level at which they can compete. The Guyan Valley Buddy League comes to mind as a suggestion.


Head Coach Rodney Plumley is a nice fellow whose coaching skills are not, in my opinion, up to the Class AAA level. But Plumley cannot be faulted for the fiasco in Hamlin. He works hard; pushes his youngsters; and does the best he can.


It is the state board of education that forced a one-school consolidation that is totally to blame. Shame on them for ruining the athletic careers of hundreds of our children.


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What on earth have we learned from the disaster that is known as the Scott-Logan debacle? Maybe not much.


I am on the subject of the free-for-all that broke out with a little more than four minutes left in the Scott-Logan game at Chapmanville Regional High School a week-and-a-half ago.


One member of the 16-year-old now 17-year-old student’s family said she thought I had been given a “Christmas present” with this story line, which just keeps on giving and giving and giving. It really is a reporter’s dream scenario.


The highly-successful high school coach whose father is coach of the host team and step-father is the county’s circuit judge gets arrested for assault and battery on a town police officer. All of this came during a game played on the floor of the highly-successful coach’s county rival, who the highly-successful coach and team refuse to play because of a fight during a baseball game a few seasons ago. Well, to be technical, the highly-successful coach’s county school administration ordered competition between the two county schools stopped in boys basketball.


It could be a subplot to explain how a fight at a baseball game causes the two high school teams to continue playing baseball but cease competing in boys basketball. Using that subplot, however, I might have to attempt to explain something that cannot logically be explained.


Meanwhile, back to the main story line. Well, I’m not clear what is the MAIN story line here. It seems to be heading toward the 17-year-old boy’s role in the whole matter, which has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with whether the highly-successful coach (Mark Hatcher) behaved improperly on the floor that evening


Let us just say this for certain: while we may argue about whether Hatcher broke the law or what his intentions were, he did NOT set any sort of good example for his players and fans. If his performance over those few minutes is to be used as a role model for the Logan community, the town has some growing up to do.


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I do want to defend the young 17-year-old, however. Despite everything Logan Sheriff Sonya Porter and her deputies have said, there is indisputable proof that they DID know the student. It is also conclusively shown on Facebook that he DID sit in a sheriff’s car with a deputy. Claiming that isn’t true just will not wash. Perhaps Chief Deputy M. Mayes, who became the department spokesman, did not know the youth but it is clear others, including the sheriff, did.


I have little doubt, though I was not a witness, of his family’s account that the parents asked both the sheriff and Chapmanville fire chief if it was okay for their son to appear as a deputy and full-fledged fireman. While the fire chief is in hiding, state officials say the lad cannot be anything more than a junior fireman who cannot fight fires or use equipment in a fire zone.


There is further proof that he raised the ladder for the flag ceremony in honor of the late Mingo Sheriff Eugene Crum.


If only we can figure out how the boy had a role in the false signer who got next to President Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, this story will at last be complete.


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The simple facts are, as noted, simple. The recently-turned 17-year-old is a minor. Under state law, he is a juvenile. It makes sense that he and his parents would rely on those in roles of authority for legal guidance. I was not present for any discussions between any of these folks, but I would bet the family farm that the family version of what happened is closer to the truth than the law enforcement side.


Regardless, the boy is … well, a boy. He is not an adult; he is not a man. He should have been counseled correctly by the people in authority and none of this would have happened. It is not my fault or the fault of our newspapers that adults in authority roles misguided him.


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While town police interrogated the highly-successful coach at their police station, both the coach’s father and step-father apparently showed up. Both likely pleaded their son’s case, although I am not certain what that case may have been. Mark Hatcher refuses to talk to local media, preferring instead to vent his position to the sympathetic Charleston Gazette. Allan Hatcher, his father and coach at CRHS, told me he didn’t want to talk about any aspect of the incident. And the step-father is Judge Eric O’Briant. Need I add more?


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Where all of this fiasco ends is mere speculation at this point. However, I will predict that Mark Hatcher is NEVER found guilty in ANY Logan courtroom and the boy will not suffer as greatly as his family fears.


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Meanwhile, officials of the Chapmanville Volunteer Fire Department made every effort to prove why there are “professional” fire departments and then there are … well, volunteers. The chief, Tommy Perry, was too busy preparing for a holiday dinner and giving out holiday gifts Saturday to talk to s reporter. At least he was doing something important. Captain Cody Perry attempted to get me to “correct” my story that the 17-year-old is not allowed to fight fires by insisting “he does not operate in hazardous conditions known as ‘hot zones’ of emergency calls.”


Efforts to get Captain Perry to assure me the boy has NEVER fought a fire as a Chapmanville fireman were unsuccessful as of 1:15 p.m., Sunday. The captain refused to answer either his home phone or cell phone that he had provided and instead insisted on continuing an email conversation. Threats of having the department’s lawyer prepare an answer for me were also commonplace.


Again, it is not the boy’s fault if leaders behave like juveniles.


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When David Retton, son of legendary Fairmont College Coach Joe Retton, failed to show for the Friends of Christian Athletes Hoops Classic Saturday evening at the Charleston Civic Center, his assistant told Scott coaches he was hospitalized with an infection. The younger Retton coaches the Fairmont Senior High team.


That led to Assistant Coach Frank Skubis taking the reigns for the evening. Skubis, who used a cane as he paced the sidelines, wanted to quickly establish his authority. Despite not huddling with the team as they prepared to walk out on the floor for the first time, Skubis was quick to rant and rave at his players.


With 6:08 remaining in the first quarter, he called a timeout to tell his team, “I’m running this show.”


Later, he stared at a statistician and said, “See them (his players) arguing with each other out there? Why in the hell are they doing that? I’ll tell you why, because Coach Retton isn’t here.” He quickly removed one of the offending players and berated him for several seconds on the team bench, telling him, “I don’t care who you talk to or where you go. You can go up in the stands and talk to them there if you want.”


After his team fell far behind Scott, Skubis finally appeared to settle into coaching without the heavy criticism and his team tightened the score.


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IF game officials, two of three of whom tossed legendary Harts/Chapmanville Coach Harry Kirk from a game at Man two years ago and are among Mark Hatcher’s “favorite” coaches, had ejected the right players at that Saturday game, Scott may have eked out a win. Tossing Anthony Sigmon was not called for and the Skyhawks suffered because of it. And if those same officials had exercised some control over events on the court, the melee likely would never have occurred.


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Happy holidays to all. Keep those rumors, story ideas and comments coming. Use my email address or call the cell, 304-533-5185.