Grundy High School wrapped up the Black Diamond District football championship two weeks ago with a convincing 42-0 win over Hurley, setting off a celebration at Nelson Memorial Field that had been a long time coming.
It had been 21 years since the school had won an outright district title on the gridiron and the previous team to do it – the 1996 Golden Wave – was a legendary group.
The only Grundy team to go 10-0 in the regular season.
A final record of 12-1.
A Southwest District title.
Region IV, Division 4 champions.
A running back who established records.
An offensive line that had no weaknesses.
A defense that smothered the opposition.
Grundy had lost four all-state players – including Region IV offensive player of the year Tommy Crigger at quarterback – off a 1995 squad which had won the district and region championships.
However, the Wave turned out to be even better in ’96.
“That team was full of unselfish and hard-working young men,” said David Scammell, a senior running back for the Golden Wave. “We were stacked two deep at every position and that’s almost unheard of now days around here. Four of the five starting linemen went on to play football in college somewhere. They made me look real good that year.”
The 5-foot-9, 158-pound Scammell ran wild on teams all season and shined under the bright glow of the Friday night lights.
There was a 256-yard, five-touchdown showing against Richlands.
In a win over Hurley, he carried the ball 40 times for 245 yards and scored three times.
He gained 290 yards against Abingdon in the regional finals.
He’d finish with 2,077 yards on the ground.
“David Scammell was one of the best high school running backs I have seen come through Southwest Virginia,” said Jason Copenhaver, Grundy’s quarterback in ’96. “Scammell wasn’t the biggest but if he had anyone one-on-one my money was on Scammell. If he didn’t run over you he would just make you miss and run around you. I think that combination of power and elusiveness is what made him great. If I had to describe Scammell’s running style I would describe him as a Reggie Bush-style running back. He was quick, fast, and strong which is what you want in your running back.”
In the final game of the regular season, Scammell returned the opening kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in a 42-12 thumping of Tazewell. It was the first of five TDs he scored that night.
“Coaches have to love a hard-nosed kid like Scammell,” Tazewell coach Dave Litz told the Bristol Herald Courier following the game. “He’s not big, but he’s a blood and guts kind of runner who always squares his shoulders and finds the right hole.”
Copenhaver could throw it too and tossed four touchdowns in the regional title game.
Luke Owens anchored that physical O-Line.
Then there was the defense.
The Golden Wave held Haysi to negative-18 rushing yards in one game.
No team scored more than two touchdowns against them the entire season.
Anthony Church, Scott Justus and B.D. Robertson helped bring the pain.
“We all just meshed and played well together and for each other,” Scammell said.
The season ended in heartbreaking fashion.
The Virginia High School League deemed Grundy’s home field unsuitable to host a state semifinal game due to muddy field conditions and concerns about the proper amount of seating.
The contest was moved to Tazewell and the Salem Spartans edged the Golden Wave, 7-0, in overtime.
“Still the most painful loss of my playing career,” Owens said. “I really believe if we had played Salem 10 times we would have won nine.”
Salem went on to win the state championship.
Grundy was left in the category of best teams to never win a state title.
“The closest way I can describe how it felt to me was it was like a death in the family,” Scammell said. “I still think about it from time to time and I guess you could say it still haunts me till this day.”
However, the good memories of 12 wins outweigh the one loss.
“Words can’t describe the bond we had and how that carried over to the football field,” Scammell said. “Especially on Friday nights.”
Now, for a look at high school football moments that occurred this week in history:
Oct. 19, 1956
Tennessee High’s Lewis Heninger rushed for two touchdowns as the Vikings played Erwin to a 13-13 tie. … Sam Clendenen scored three touchdowns as Appalachia overpowered Shoemaker High School of Gate City, 47-0. … Behind two touchdowns from Jerry Foster, Damascus dominated Beaver Creek (North Carolina) in a 27-0 triumph.
Oct. 21, 1966
Charles Warren reached the end zone three times in Saltville’s 41-7 stomping of John Battle. … David Archer threw three touchdown passes in Marion’s 40-6 pummeling of Patrick Henry. … Terry Phillips scored both of Blountville’s touchdowns in a 35-13 loss to Hampton.
Oct. 18, 1974
Tony Messer intercepted a two-point conversion attempt with 8:28 remaining, a play that proved pivotal for Virginia High in a 14-12 victory over Richlands. … Robbie Burton and Mike Stepp each scored two touchdowns in Powell Valley’s 41-7 beatdown of Ervinton. … Marion mashed John Battle, 20-0, as Gary Hart scored two TDs.
Oct. 18, 1991
Tommy Arnold, Steve Leonard and Thad Carter scored touchdowns in Tennessee High’s 25-14 victory over Science Hill. … Mike Hamm (35 carries, 313 yards, four touchdowns) starred in Coeburn’s 35-14 crushing of Castlewood. … Robbie Vannoy’s 1-yard touchdown run with 2:16 remaining gave Holston a 28-26 win over George Wythe.