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Colombo tackling numerous chores at Liberty

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

This list of chores for new Liberty football coach Chris Colombo is enough to keep him more than busy until August practice begins later this summer.

Among other things, there's the basic upkeep of Hite Field -- most of which is taken care of by Colombo and his new staff. There's the field itself to take care of and maintenance of the fieldhouse. But the biggest priority Colombo is taking on is rebuilding the school's football program which languished through two coaches and an 0-10 season last year.

"More than anything, we want to get the kids' interest back into football," Colombo said. "These kids went through an awful lot last year, and now we're working hard to get it back on track.

"We know we could take some lumps this season. It's not going to happen overnight. We've got a lot of young kids, primarily at the skill positions, so what we want to do is build for the future."

Colombo spent the past nine seasons as the head freshman coach at the school -- a position he says should help the transition of another coach. So far, Randy Gorby and Russ Nutt have been added to a staff which also saw the departure of Josh Gorrell and Tommy Lopez, as well as Brian Fisher, who helped later in the year with the Mountaineers' no-huddle, run-and-shoot offense.

Another priority Colombo says is trying to establish a junior varsity program which he feels would greatly benefit the program.

"Right now, I feel like we should have about 40 kids out (in August)," Colombo said. "If we can hold that number that would be fine. But what usually happens is you have some kids quit after that first week and then there's injuries. Before you know it, you're down to 20-25 kids and that makes for a hard season."

Currently, the staff is busy with the summer weight lifting programs which Colombo says is also making headway.

"It's tough, but I think we're making progress," he said. "The interest is growing, but we've got a lot of kids who are working, too.

"Like I said, we're all working hard to get this thing back on track. It's going in the right direction and I see a lot of positives from the young kids we have."

n AYERS HONORED: Local high school umpire and official Paul Ayers, II was honored earlier this month by the National Federation Officials Association.

Ayers was recognized during the Class AA state championship game at Watt Powell Park in Charleston by the NFOA as the state's Active Official. The award honors the official who have exemplified the highest standards of ethical conduct and moral character and have made significant contributions to high school officiating.

n BIG WEEK FOR CROSS: Notre Dame's Steve Cross was among the those in attendance of last week's Notre Dame University football camp.

Cross distinguished himself from the group with a pair of impressive performances in a couple of the camp's skills drills. Cross placed second in the field goal long snapping competition and followed that with a third place finish in the punt snapping contest.

n BACK IN TOWN: Former Woodrow Wilson boys basketball coach Dave Barksdale didn't stay away from Beckley for long.

Barksdale, who coached the Flying Eagles to five Class AAA state titles during the '90s, resigned just over a year ago to take the head coaching position at Aiken, South Carolina.

Saturday at a new conference in Beckley, Barksdale was introduced as the new assistant coach at the College of West Virginia where he will be under former assistant Bob Bolen. Barksdale, who was the men's basketball coach at Alderson-Broaddus in the early '80s, compiled a 7-14 record in Aiken before resigning due to health issues.

n ANOTHER BIG, BIG 10 SHOWING: The Big 10 Conference again held its own with some of the state's top players.

Bridgeport's Vince Veltri and Chris Liebig were two of the players representing the North squad in Friday's annual North-South Basketball Classic at Capital High School in Charleston.

Veltri, a first-team Class AA all-state selection, scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds in a 117-110 loss. Liebig, meanwhile, chipped in six points, four rebounds and one steal.

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com

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