KENOVA — C.K.W. Carl Kenneth Ward. Ceredo-Kenova Wonders.
Longtime Ward assistant Barry Scragg made the crowd gathered at Ward-Craycraft Stadium gasp in delight as he used those initials to emphasize that the legendary football coach Ward was C-K football. Scragg and several hundred others gathered Sunday night to honor Ward on what would have been his 92nd birthday. Ward died on Dec. 9, 2020. Had a strong thunderstorm not have blown through, several hundred more people might have attended.
Football accomplishments frequently were mentioned, but Ward’s development of young men through football, basketball, track and as a teacher took precedence.
“His impact went way beyond the football field,” said John B. Lowe, who played for Ward and was one of nine guest speakers at the ceremony. “No one wanted to disappoint him or let him down. He believed the principles he taught would make us better people, better husbands, better fathers.”
They made better football players, too, as evidenced by Ward’s 244-61-3 record and 10 state championships in football. He also coached C-K to the 1967 track state title and to state basketball championships in 1968 and 1969.
“Every season began with, ‘we’re going to win the state title because that’s what they did before us,’ “ Lowe said.
J.D. Billups, whose family’s relationship with Ward went back to the 1940s, said Ward was rugged, but fair, and loved.
“Coach Ward is a legend in the C-K community,” Billups said. “He was tough. He’d chew on you. From seventh to 12th grade when I was around him, though, I never heard one curse word from him or any of the coaches. I never saw a kid who deserved to play who didn’t play. It didn’t matter if the kid was rich or poor, what family he was from. If he deserved to play, he played.”
Jimmy McCallister, who played football and basketball for Ward before playing at Western Carolina University, said the Ward people saw on the field was the Ward people saw everywhere.
“I never once heard him cuss,” McCallister said. “I always saw him in church. He lived that life. If anyone was born to coach, it was coach Ward. He had a passion.
“He loved what he did. The greatest attribute coach displayed to me and our players was love. He was more than a coach. He was a mentor, a father-like figure. In 2012 at a function he told us all that he hoped to see us in Heaven.”
Ward stayed in touch with former players and coaches. Lace Hardwick, a Ward assistant who later coached at Vinson, said Ward was a joy to work with.
“When you graduated high school, your relationship with coach Ward just began,” Hardwick said. “We’d eat together and he’d always tell us, ‘I’ve been blessed. Let me pay.’ In reality, we we were the ones who were blessed.”
Former Wonders standout Danny Joe Pelfrey said said Ward didn’t always play kids at their best positions, instead putting them where they most benefited the team.
“The attitude you developed playing for coach Ward was you were selfless,” Pelfrey said.
“Any success we’ve had goes a little bit to coach Ward and coach (Dale) Craycraft.”
Craycraft was Ward’s top assistant and longtime friend. Craycraft, 75, died Aug. 20, 2002 and was as beloved as Ward.
Rick Chaffin, a former C-K player and coach who spearheaded the ceremony, along with construction of a memorial wall at Ward-Craycraft Stadium to honor C-K illustrious football history, said Ward used similar methods in the classroom as on the field or court.
“He was a life coach,” Chaffin said. “He taught math by teaching us to figure out what size Evaroni’s pizza gave us the most pizza for our money.”
Chaffin’s comment drew laughter, of which there was much Sunday night.
“He wasn’t a recreational P.E. teacher like so many today,” Chaffin said. “He prepared boys to be men. He wanted to toughen you up.”
Ric Griffith, a West Virginia delegate and former mayor of Kenova, praised Ward in song with an adapted version of Camelot.
“No one gave back to C-K High School the way coach Ward and coach Craycraft did,” Griffith said, his voice breaking.
The C-K Alumni Band performed at the event, which included a 21-gun salute by American Legion Post 93 for Ward, who was a veteran.