FALLING ROCK, W.Va. — The June 23 flood waters took away so much from the Clendenin area– six lives, many homes, businesses and closed Herbert Hoover High School, but Joe Eddie Cowley Field survived and the Huskies rolled to victory in a home opener Friday night that many in the Elk River community had waited for all summer.
“As soon as the flood event happened, everybody knew that this was going to be one of those moments where the community could come together,” said Husky fan JR Oliver, who said he was sure that he would be back at Cowley Field this fall for the first home game.
A near-capacity crowd in the stands bathed in the school’s blue and red colors, with many wearing shirts that read ‘Hoover Strong,’ was given plenty to cheer for as the Huskies rolled to a 43-8 victory over Nitro High.
Perhaps the way the game began was the ultimate sign that this was Hoover’s night. The Huskies ran the opening kickoff back for a score, and a bad snap on the extra point attempt actually became their good fortune when their holder managed to pass for the two-point conversion and a 8-0 lead less than 10 seconds into the game.
“You look up in the stands and see all these people here, and you can tell that they believe in us,” said Husky coach Tim Meyer. “What this game is really symbolic of is being a step going in the right direction for this community and this school. It’s great to be back up here (and) to be back on this field.”
Madison Bowles, a Hoover softball player, said that the uncertainty following the flood made many unsure if there would be any home games this season.
“We all really honestly thought that we wouldn’t be back here. We thought that our school is gone, our fields are gone,” she said. “But being here tonight shows that working hard and everybody working together, and everybody persevering through these really tough obstacles can get us to some big places.”
Hoover students are currently sharing the building with students at nearby Elkview Middle School, awaiting portables that could be their school until a new building is constructed.
The Huskies are now 3-0, even after a summer when Meyer said football immediately was put on the back-burner.
“We had a meeting right after the flood. The first thing we talked about was they needed to take care of their families; we need to take care of each other,” said Meyer. “Normally, we’re talking about July weightlifting and getting ready for August practice. Pretty much I told them that you’re going to have to get everything ready with your houses. You’re going to have to rebuild your houses and your families first.”
Having football back meant more to the community than just the game itself, said LuAnn Wright.
“It’s a morale booster that they really need. I mean, we’ve still got people who don’t have housing, that are just kind of nomads,” she said. “This gives everybody an opportunity to come together, and just be blessed. Everybody has a good time and the kids enjoy themselves.”
The cheerleaders’ banner for the team to run through fittingly used the title of the Thin Lizzy classic “The Boys Are Back In Town,” and in keeping with tradition, the Marching Huskies band played a rendition of “Amazing Grace” before kickoff.
“The community here is crazy,” Bowles said. “Everybody just always seems to be together. The community is just amazing; their morale and being able to work together.”
Working together, Meyer said, was essential in sanitizing the field and getting it ready for play.
“It’s been a massive group effort from several people in our community that’s made this happen,” he said. “We’ve had work crews up here around the clock for the past week.”
Herbert Hoover is ranked No. 7 in the MetroNews Class AA top 10.