Logan County High School was co-recipients of the 2013 “National High School Spirit of Sport Award” on Wednesday.
The national sportsmanship award was given to Logan County and Magoffin County High School by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) for the way they supported one another in the past year.
On March 2 last year, an EF3 tornado spun up in the rural Appalachian valley between the mountains and descended upon the tiny town of Salyersville around 7:03 p.m. It touched down and began a 49-mile path of destruction through four counties. In the process, scores of buildings, businesses and homes were destroyed. Both the middle school and the high school were rendered condemned following the storms.
That Friday was the night before the scheduled Kentucky High School Athletic Association 15th Region girls basketball game between Magoffin County and Paintsville High School. After much discussion, the game was moved to Monday night, just two days before the start of the state tournament. Before a very small contingent of Magoffin County fans many of whom now owning only the clothes on their backs the Lady Hornets defeated Paintsville, 49-40. Magoffin County assistant coach Scott Castle had become the inspirational leader of the team members as they fought back emotions to try to enjoy the regional win, proudly proclaiming “One team. One goal. One Promise. We are Magoffin.”
While that was in and of itself both very moving and inspirational, it merely set the stage for what was to follow.
Two days later at the KHSAA Sweet 16 girls state basketball tournament in Bowling Green, Magoffin County was pitted against Ashland Blazer High School from the 16th Region, a much larger school and its geographic neighbor located in an area that was also devastated by the tornado. Prior to the game, the two teams gathered at center court for a moment of silence and then celebrated survival. After trailing in the second half, Magoffin County came back to win, 63-59.
Logan County coach Scot MacAllister was friends with Castle from the AAU coaching circuit and was in Diddle Arena for that game.
He offered up the LCHS facilities for practice and along with Logan County football coach Dane Gregory, got a group of Logan County students together to go to Diddle Arena and cheer on Magoffin County.
“I went to the first game and noticed that they didn’t have anybody there,” MacAllister said. “Our student body is great about coming to our games and supporting us, and I knew they would do it for them.”
So MacAllister and Gregory bought tickets to the next Magoffin County game in the Sweet 16.
“We just stood outside the arena handing them out to any kids and their parents that wanted to come and cheer for Magoffin County,” MacAllister said.
Some of the LCHS girls basketball players even made signs and banners for the occasion.
Although Magoffin County lost that game to Lincoln County, Logan County’s selfless involvement became the big story of the tournament. Since that game, the students from both schools have stayed in touch and forged lifetime friendships as individuals who might have otherwise never seen each other again.
Nine months later, the Magoffin students decided that they wanted to pay back the Logan County girls team by coming to its first home game. On December 1, busloads of Magoffin County students made the five-hour drive from Salyersville to Russellville. Only a few Logan County school administrators were aware of Magoffin County’s impending arrival at their game. As they poured into the gym that night, it was very apparent the impact it had on McAlister, who was moved to tears. “When you do the right thing like we did in March, you really don’t expect anything in return,” he said. Although Logan County was not able to win that game, the players’ and fans’ hearts were enriched by the visit from their new friends. Using their own pre-rehearsed cheers, the Magoffin County students supported Logan County