“Memory, all alone in the moonlight,
I can smile at the old days …”
— Lyrics by Trevor Nunn
from the works of T.S. Eliot
Sam Huff died a week or so ago at the age of 87.
He was an NFL great and a WVU legend.
And he’s an exciting memory out of Romney’s past — for those who can remember, but their numbers are dwindling by the year.
Dave Greene doesn’t remember, but Joe Dan Corbin does.
“I remember ol’ Sammy,” he said last week.
Huff was the son and brother of coal miners in Farmington, but he made it beyond the pits to put a rugged mark on the gridiron at every level.
Location is everything to this story, which has its beginnings in 1949 when Huff was a sophomore.
Romney’s Pioneers were having their greatest season in memory and had hopes of playing in West Virginia’s new state championship game. The 2-team playoffs were only in their 2nd year and the state used a formula that gave points for victories and for strength of schedule to select the 2 finalists.
Romney had a single loss to archrival Keyser, which was a Class A school. The Class B Pioneers had earlier scrapped a game with a Cumberland team that wouldn’t have helped them in the ratings, so they had an open date.
Farmington, which had wrapped up a pretty fair season, was willing to play 1 more game.
“(Coach Dick) Mcelwee talked them into coming over and playing,” Corbin recalls. “That would have gave us enough points to get in.”
Well, win Romney did, and then again in early December in the state championship over Elizabeth from Wirt County.
Two traditions grew out of that game. Farmington wasn’t on the scheduled in 1950, but starting in ’51 came to Romney annually for a late-season game.
And their Hampshire County hosts helped the visitors defray travel expenses.
“We took those guys home with us,” Corbin remembered. Huff might have gone home with “Doc Brown” during his visits, Corbin speculated.
If ’49 proved an exciting victory for Romney then ’51 was payback time.
Huff’s Farmington squad was undefeated coming into the Nov. 3 game. The Pioneers were a decent 4-2-1.
The game came down to 1 big play.
“Sam hit our quarterback, who was David Heare, and he picked it up and run it in for a touchdown,” Corbin recounted.
Corbin would have known just how tough Huff was. Huff dominated the defensive line in college and became a Hall of Fame linebacker in the pros.
In that 1951 game, Corbin would have had his share of Huff’s moves since the Romney junior was the right guard.
Farming finished 9-0, but missed the playoffs. Romney went on to another loss and another tie, finishing 4-4-2.
The rivalry continued through the ’50s. Corbin remembers — or at least thinks he does — one year where a couple of inches of snow fell.
“Everything was white,” he said. “I think they used coal dust to line the field.”
The games were close early on — a 12-12 tie in ’52, a 1-point Romney victory in ’53, a 6-point Farmington win in ’54.
The tradition continued through the ’60s when a young Farmington player named Joe Manchin stayed with the Williamses of River Road.
The man who became governor — and now senator — never forgot the kindness of his Romney hosts, visiting them until Mary Susan Williams died a few years ago.
After Romney closed and Hampshire High opened in 1964 the rivalry continued, only coming to an end with the 1974 game. Farmington closed its doors the following spring.
Thanks, Joe Dan, for the memory. o