Fairview High School’s appearance in the Class A football championship tomorrow in Bowling Green means so much to so many in the tiny Westwood community.
The Eagles started playing football in 1970 when Superintendent Denver Ball talked Paul Reliford into being his coach.
Reliford had played football for Ball as an Ashland Tomcat. He was an outstanding receiver, catching passes from Russell Mayor “Buffalo” Bill Hopkins with regularity.
Reliford, who was a truant officer in the Raceland-
Worthington school system when Ball approached him, wasn’t sure what he was getting into by starting a new program at Fairview, but his high school coach meant so much to him he was willing to give it a try.
Reliford even turned down a more lucrative full-time job from the railroad that would have paid him “twice the salary.”
He and his late wife, Germaine, were bringing up two boys, Chris and Glenn, and the extra money would have helped, Reliford said.
He said it was tough early on to make ends meet. They used newspapers for drapes, he said.
“I loved Mr. Ball and I knew I’d be happy (coaching),” Reliford said. “I was also married with two kids so I knew it’d be a challenge.”
Deward Davis had already started the football rolling with the Westwood Boys Club league and Scott Davidson was an outstanding assistant coach. So the pieces for success were in place.
It turned out quite well for Fairview and Reliford, who went on to become the school superintendent after a successful stint as football coach. Both of his sons also played for the Eagles and were home last weekend to witness the biggest win in school history.
“This means so much to this community and this community has been good to me,” said Reliford, who only recently lost his wife. “This community has always supported the school and supported me.
“I’ll always be an Ashland guy though. I still go to some of the games over there.”
Reliford is a former Ashland Elks Sports Day honoree.
He also made a lifelong friend in Rex Cooksey, his next-door neighbor and a former Eagle player for him. “Rex is not only a good friend, but he was a good football coach,” Reliford said. The two coached together for several seasons.
Fairview went 5-3 in its first season in 1970.
Reliford is one of many in Westwood who is proud of what the 2012 Eagles have accomplished in making it to the state championship game.
More on Brice
Local sports historian Curtis Crye supplied me with some great information about the late Brice Thornbury’s high school basketball career at Fairview.
Thornbury, who passed away last week at 66, remains the No. 1 scorer in Fairview High School history with 2,035 points. He averaged 18.7 points per game in 109 games from 1960 to 1964.
He scored 58 points in a 100-95 victory over Flat Gap on Feb. 18, 1964. That record stood for three years until Jim Day scored 60 against Wurtland in 1967.
Brice averaged 30.3 points per game as a senior and that led to him getting a college scholarship at Southern Mississippi.
Of course, he eventually came back home and was a lifelong and highly respected educator. He coached Boyd County basketball from 1970-74 and won the school’s first 16th Region championship in 1973.
That ’73 team will be honored Friday night when Boyd County plays host to Ashland at the Boyd County Middle School gym.
The starting five were Phil Pratt, Rob Chaney, Davey Wooten, Casey Shumway and Snook Bryan.
It was during that season the Lions recorded their first victories over Ashland, beating the Tomcats in the district finals and regional finals.
Brice also has the distinction of being the only person to have played, coached and officiated in the Ashland Invitational Tournament.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.