90 years of football

WEIRTON – This Friday, the 3-5 Weir High football team will play its annual game with Brooke, a game steeped in tradition, so it is the perfect setting for celebrating the 90th anniversary of the school’s football program.

The Weir High football program began in 1923 with a collection of 30 boys under coach and principal G. Alfred Beck.

It is the finale of a year of celebration of the 90 preceding football seasons that actually began in August when the Red Riders replaced the traditional “W” on the helmets with a 90th anniversary logo that is patterned after the old Weirton Steel coil of steel logo.

“We want to honor everybody,” said Carl Thompson, a member of the Red Rider football boosters and chairman of the event. “We’re inviting all the former football players at Weir High, of course, but also coaches, student mangers and ball boys, cheerleaders, band directors and members, statisticians, chain gang members and anyone who played a role in the program.”

Thompson, who ironically is a graduate of Brooke, having played on the 1985 Bruin state runner-up team and the 1986 state championship team, said the festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with persons desiring to be recognized on the field registering at tents that will be erected behind the concession stand on the home side of Jimmy Carey Stadium.

The actual ceremonies will begin at 6:30 p.m. when Dan Enich, Weir High principal, calls them to order. Having Enich as a key figure in the celebration is appropriate because he is the only person who played football for the Red Riders (a 1979 graduate), was head coach (1999-2001) and served as principal (2011-present).

Enich will introduce John Sorenti, who for many years broadcast Weir High football games over WEIR-AM, for introduction of the groups of participants.

“It is all about bringing back the tradition of Weir High football,” Enich explained. “Earlier in the season we honored the 1973 Red Rider state runner-up football team on its 40th anniversary.”

Then, to conclude the pre-game festivities, the Weir High and Brooke bands will gather for the playing of the national anthem in honor of the George Mozingo family of Follansbee.

“The bands are coming together in tribute to the memory of the late Hannah Mozingo, who was killed in a tragic home explosion two weeks ago, and the Mozingo family,” Enich said. “The young girl was a Brooke student and we want to help our Brooke neighbors in honoring the family.”

Following the football game, the Red Rider Boosters always have a post game get together after each home football game at the Serbian- American Cultural Center on Colliers Way, but, of course, Friday’s affair will continue the celebration of the Weir High tradition and the public always is invited, according to Thompson, whose son, Matt, a sophomore, is a defensive tackle on this year’s Red Rider team.

“We have a great booster club this year with John Frankovitch as president, and I’m proud to be a member,” said Thompson, who likely will be rooting for both sides during the game. “We have a cake donated by Gus’ Goodies for the occasion and we also want to especially invite all members of the Weirton Steel 25-Year Club, which is the only organization left from the original steel company. Weirton Steel played a huge role in the Weir High football program through the years.”

The Weir High tradition includes a .578 winning percentage over the 90 years and includes state championship seasons in 1935, 1942, 1949, 1957, 1960, 1961, 1998 and 2005. In addition to 1973, the Riders were runners-up in 1938 and 1945.

Three former Red Riders have been named Kennedy Award winners in recognition as the top football player in West Virginia. They are Bob Kelley (1960), Keith Jeter (1998) and Quincy Wilson (1998). In addition, Zac Cooper (2004) is the only former Rider to win the Sam Huff Award emblematic of the state’ best defensive player.