03-08-2018 Tri-City Area Sports

HONORABLE, CLASS… Ten inductees into Watervliet High School’s inaugural Hall of Fame class were honored Thursday, March 1, 2018. Pictured (from the left) are: Seated – former coach Gerald Barchett, former coach Ron Farac, Jerry Bednarowski accepting for his brother former coach Eugene Bednarowski, Kim Gear, and Jason Forrester; Standing – Watervliet High School Athletic Director Ken Dietz, Tom Hutchinson, Rick Sprague, Dan Hutchinson, Mike Hutchins and Bob Hutchins, nephews of recipient Richie Morlock, and Don Finnefrock. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

An honorable class receives a classy honor

Ten inductees into the inaugural class of Watervliet’s Hall of Fame were honored Thursday, March 1 in front of cheering fans, a proud athletic director, and family and friends.

The Watervliet Hall of Fame was conceived by WHS athletic director Ken Dietz. His efforts were recognized Thursday as the school inducted 10 members into the Hall of Fame Class of 2018. Superintendent Kevin Schooley remarked, “This was not a Kevin Schooley project. This was not a Board of Education project. This was a Ken Dietz project. It’s remarkable.”

Ten former athletes and coaches were selected by committee to join the first ever Hall of Fame class. Thursday, the group gathered at the Fairfield Inn in Watervliet for fellowship, dinner, and comments by Dietz, who thanked his family and the school district, including his assistant Nancy Scowcroft, for their support in making the Hall of Fame a reality.

The members of the Class of 2018 include: Gerald Barchett, Eugene Bednarowski, Ron Farac, Don Finnefrock, Richie Morlock, Rick Sprague, Tom Hutchinson, Dan Hutchinson, Jason Forrester, and Kim Gear.

Sprague who currently lives in Bella Vista, Arkansas traveled back home to Watervliet specifically for the ceremony. He commented, “When Ken called me, I was astonished that I was nominated in this group.  I told Ken I felt really humbled to be honored like this. This means a lot to me.”

Sprague, a 1965 graduate of the school, was the first 1,000-yard rusher for Watervliet. He was a member of the undefeated 1964 football team, the first in school history to accomplish that feat.

Ron Farac, longtime coach at Watervliet, reminisced about his time at the school. He coached varsity sports for 42 years as a Panther, including 37 years as the track coach. Looking around the room at the honorees and their families, he remarked, “It’s great. A lot of smiling faces.” When asked how he felt about his nomination and subsequent induction, Farac said, “It’s very humbling.  It’s a nice thing Ken Dietz has done.”

Following dinner, the group traveled to the high school for the formal ceremony during half-time of the boys’ varsity basketball game against Lawton.

Chairs were lined up along the gym floor for the honorees. Their names were announced, Dietz handed them a plaque and shook their hands, and the crowd clapped.

Members of the varsity basketball squad shook the hands of the former athletes, acknowledging their legacies and cementing that shared Panther Pride. Permanent plaques were placed along the corridor outside the gymnasium and will remain in the maroon ribbon near the top of the wall. Future Hall of Fame classes will be added as well.

But there was something more in the air. It was a sense of respect. Panther fans who may never have known Don Finnefrock, a 1951 WHS graduate who scored 34 touchdowns during his football career, paid tribute to him and the other members of the class. There was something unmistakably humbling about seeing these great coaches and players being remembered for their talents on and off the field.