‘Warhorses’ truly represents Swannanoa, Black Mountain

Generally speaking, I enjoy writing the stories that I write.

Reporting the news in a town that you love is a great way to get to know the people and places that make up the community around you.

As a resident of Black Mountain, what I am writing about is legitimately of interest to me.

That makes my job less about doing work and more about learning as much as possible about the special place I live.

From time to time I get a chance to write about a topic that brings together a couple of the things that interest me the most: sports and the history of the Valley.

Working in an office with access to archived copies of The Black Mountain News allows me to read what was going on in the community from the paper’s inception in 1945 to its issue last week.

It was an old article that ran Sept. 2, 1954 that caught my attention recently.

As soon as I saw the headline, “Warhorses Play Asheville High Friday Evening,” I realized it was the first time that the team’s name had been used in our newspaper.

The 1954-55 school year was the first time that high school students from Swannanoa and Black Mountain attended the same school. In October 1953, children in the two areas attended different high schools.

That year, the state held a vote in which residents were to decide whether the state issued $72 million in bonds to improve schools and hospitals.

Some of the money would go to building a consolidated high school for the Swannanoa Valley.

More voters from the Valley went to the polls than from any other part of Buncombe County that year. Black Mountain was the home of 771 voters, with 758 of them voting in favor of the school improvements. Four hundred and ninety-nine of the 513 Swannanoa voters did the same.

In fact, the final votes showed that the entire state was overwhelmingly in favor of issuing the bonds.

Weeks later, the Swannanoa Warriors and the Black Mountain Darkhorses squared off for the final time.

Black Mountain defeated Swannanoa, 31-0, becoming the first team in the county to win three consecutive championships.

The loss meant that Swannanoa head coach Buffalo Humphries would end his career at the school on a sour note.

But redemption was his when he became the first coach of the Black Mountain-Swannanoa High School Warhorses the following year.

The name Warhorses is not a common name for athletic teams around the country.

A quick search on produces a grand total of four high school teams using that name (high schools in Barnwell, South Carolina; Devine, Texas; and Alexandria, Louisiana are the other three).

“Warhorses” gave each school an opportunity to hold onto a piece of its identity. The “War” from Swannanoa High School remained, while Black Mountain contributed “horses.”

Despite scoring its first touchdown as a consolidated team in the fourth quarter against Asheville, the Warhorses lost their first game, 19-6.

The rest of that inaugural season for the Warhorses took a much different direction.

The following week, the Warhorses beat Sand Hill convincingly, 26-0, and began to build a winning legacy.

The 1954 Warhorses went on to become the solid foundation on which the Owen Warhorses football program was built.

Black Mountain - Swannanoa High School went on to go undefeated against all Buncombe County competition that year. Their play earned them a county title, the Warhorses’ first and the fourth in a row for the Swannanoa Valley.