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Legends enter KGHS Sports Hall of Fame

 

It was an evening of magic as the past stepped forward to touch the present.  For several hours, legendary sports icons from the annals of Fox sports history graced the auditorium at King George High School (KGHS). 

Among the sports notables officially inducted into the King George High School Sports Hall of Fame were  the 1972 KGHS girls basketball team, Jermon Bushrod, Linda Morrissette Failes, George Thomas Toliver, and Eugene Fields. 

Fox history came alive as a special presentation honoring the KGHS 1952 football team took place during the early part of the ceremony. 

Famed WFLS radio broadcaster John Allen continued his role as the master of ceremonies, while KGHSSHOF founder and president Gary Butler welcomed the program’s honored guests and devoted Fox fans. He also echoed the mission, hopes and dreams of the KGHSSHOF. “Tonight we celebrate some of the people who played an important role in helping make the Foxes what they are today,” Butler said during the program’s opening statement.

Bushrod literally put King George County on the map. In light of his recent professional accomplishments as starting left tackle for the New Orleans Saints, Bushrod’s alumni status exploded into the sports stratosphere. 

The fourth round draft pick helped his team win the 2009 Super Bowl XLIV, as they defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17. Last year Bushrod joined four of his teammates on the annual NFC Pro Bowl team. “Jermon is an outstanding football player, and his abilities are shown on the national stage week after week,” John Donatelli, New Orleans Saints offensive line coach said. “As good a football player as Jermon is, he is even a better person.”

Bushrod’s rise to stardom emanated from years as a standout three-sport high school athlete. His contributions lead to a mini-dynasty of gridiron and basketball championships; however, he was a part of a huge group of high school stars who made KGHS one of the competitive sports programs in the state.

 “It was hard to talk about one athlete without talking about the others—they were a great group of kids that fostered leadership, while pushing each other to work hard,” according to Bushrod’s high school coach Eddie Haynes.

Among the litany of his collegiate accomplishments at Towson University, Bushrod was first team All Atlantic 10, and finished his collegiate career with 38 consecutive starts. 

Every year, through the efforts of his Visualize and Rize, LLC foundation, kids from throughout the Fredericksburg community flock to learn proper football fundamentals from area coaches, and KGHS alumni. Proceeds from his annual golf tournament are given back area high schools in the form of college scholarships. 

The 1972 KGHS women’s basketball team left its indelible legacy as the only women’s basketball team in school history with a record of 14 wins and no losses. 

Under the coaching auspices of Donna Coley, the team won a district championship and a Regional championship. Unfortunately, state championships for women were not played during this era in VHSL history. 

The team yielded 26.5 points per game, for an average winning margin of 27.5, while averaging 54 points a game.  

Among the players who achieved basketball collegiate success were Katherin Johnson (James Madison University), and fellow Duke teammate, Linda Morrissette Failes.

Morrissette-Failes continues to set the standard for KGHS alumni who have entered the world of coaching. After 30 years, the five sport Fox alumnus’ passion for sports continues to astound sports enthusiasts throughout the state.

Currently, she has the second highest record for victories for Virginia tennis coaches, which includes: 17 district championships (13 straight from 1999 to 2012), three district runner-up titles, four Regional championships, eight Regional runner-up titles, one state championship, two state runner-up titles, Virginia State Tennis Coach of the Year, 2012 Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year for eight states, Virginia Region B Coach of the year.

Morrissette-Failes also set the standard for golf coaches, with a career that has lasted for 29 years. Within that time span, her teams have won 205 matches, five district championships, two Regional runner-up titles, and an individual honor of 2002 VHSCA State Golf Coach of the Year.

Affectionately known by his peers and student-athletes as coach, Ralph Bunche and KGHS coach Eugene Fields has coached and mentored students for five decades. He coached basketball, baseball, and track & field at Ralph Bunche, and was a baseball and assistant football coach at KGHS.

Fields was instrumental in making Ralph Bunche a respected competitor in area sports. He coached the 1968 baseball team to a district and state runner-up title that featured one loss. He also coached the track & field team to a district championship.

At King George, he led the 1970 baseball team to the state semi-finals. He was instrumental in establishing the first middle school football team at King George Middle School. In addition, he served as an assistant football coach for the undefeated 1976 KGHS football team.

As an NBA referee, Toliver has enriched the lives of thousands of basketball fans throughout the world. As an athlete and coach, the 1969 KGHS alumni has left a legacy of achievement that continues to serve as an example for today’s youth to follow.

Prior to graduating from high school, Toliver was challenged by KGHS boys’ varsity basketball coach Channing Brown to make a difference in the lives of others. “I was told by my high school assistant coach to be a trailblazer, who later explained that a trailblazer is a person who gets in front and leads by example,” Toliver said.

Toliver and his teammates helped set and shape the foundation for the Fox basketball program with competitive consistency on the court. During his senior year, the Foxes finished the season, 20-1, with a state runner-up title. The co-captain led the Foxes in scoring with a 18.1 points per game average, shot 51 percent from the floor (132 of 261), and averaged over three seasons 12.3 points a game.

As a James Madison Duke, he led the team in scoring three out of four years. He averaged 19.3 points as a freshman, 12.7 as sophomore, 16.6 as a junior, and 12.5 as a senior.

Toliver was the first player in JMU history to score over 1,000 points, finishing his career as the all-time leading scorer with 1,287 points. He also scored the most points in a season, with 381, and most points in a game (34). The choice was easy for the JMU sports panel when it came to making him a member of the JMU Sports Hall of Fame.

During his climb through the ranks of professional basketball officiating, he became a notable basketball referee, who worked his way into the elite ACC conference. 

Prior to becoming a NBA referee, he was an International Basketball Association referee.

Although he has retired from NBA officiating, he serves as the director of the Developmental League of Referees for the NBA.

Along with coaching a girls’ AAU basketball team to a national title, he is the owner and director of a nationally renowned referees camp.

The KGHS 1952 football team were men of clandestine destiny, who were gridiron pioneers in their won right. The 13 men who opened the doors to 60-years of football at KGHS included: Donald Clift, Richard Cox, Herbert Williams, Skippy Lewis, William Martin, Roland Wegner, William Meadows, Julian Brizendine, Wardlow Trainor, James Hudson, Joy Broadus, Wallace Owens, Carl Garrison, Larry Cameron and Pete Garner.

In hopes of playing six-man football, head coach Vic Kazlausky threw caution to the wind, winning two out of seven games during their inaugural season. Their intrepid journey through unchartered territory changed the course of sports history in King George. However, no matter how big or daunting their opponent appeared to be, the team never wavered when it came to supporting their coach. “I believe we would have run through the wall if he had told us to,” Cameron said. “It was a great experience for all of us, and it was a gratifying feeling that we were starting a tradition for the Foxes.”

 

Leonard Banks

Sports Editor

 

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