Thinking out loud
Once upon a time Ripley’s football program appeared to have a revolving door. Consider this: From the seasons of 1967 through 1976, Ripley had five different head coaches and enjoyed just two winning campaigns (1968 and 1969).
In fact, dating back to that first team of 1919, led by Fred H. O’Brien, only two head coaches – Roger Rymer and the classy Robert “Red” Hill – were in charge of teams for more than a five-season stretch. Rymer was Ripley’s head coach for seven (1939-45) and Hill for five (1959-63). Hill’s .583 winning percentage is fourth best in school history.
It wasn’t until the arrival of Frank Marino in 1977 that Viking football received a shot of stability. Marino would lead Ripley High football to 158 wins over the next 26 years. Along the way was the school’s first-ever playoff games and perfect season.
When Marino retired, one of his former players – Jimmy Frashier – stepped in and has carried the torch for the past 10 seasons.
Viking football is losing a good man as Frashier steps down and begins a new position in administration at Ravenswood High School.
The search now begins for the next leader of Blue and White football. Who will become the 22nd head coach in school history and join a list that besides the likes of Hill, Marino and Frashier includes a Super Bowl winning coach in Paul Lanham (a second-best .633 winning percentage in three years), the highly-respected Steve McMillion (a school-best .759 winning percentage in three seasons) and the popular Ernie Moore (the fifth-best winning percentage of .567 in a three-season span).
The job is an attractive one and should garner plenty of candidates. Just thinking out loud, here are some names in which the job likely will pique their interest, if not a lot, at least a little. They are listed in alphabetical order.
James Abshire – Considered one of Ripley’s best-ever players, Abshire has been out of coaching for a few years. But when Abshire manned the sidelines at Poca High he was considered one of the state’s finest assistant coaches running the defenses for Bob Lemley’s Dots. He was a big part of Poca’s state championship success.
Bryce Casto – The former Viking standout is currently teaching and coaching at Nitro High School. Casto had a successful run as a head coach at South Charleston, winning the Class AAA state title in 1994. During his career, Casto has worked at West Virginia State University as a coach, athletic director and vice president of student affairs. He started his career as an assistant football coach, assistant baseball coach and athletic trainer at Ravenswood.
Shane Casto – The Ripley High head baseball coach has served the Viking football program the past several seasons as an assistant while also guiding the freshmen teams. Casto was an outstanding player for Ripley during his high school days.
Page 2 of 4 - Mike Chancey – For 19 seasons Chancey led the program at nearby Meigs Local High School in Pomeroy, Ohio. He stepped away from coaching following the 2011 season. Chancey, a former Ohio State player, won 108 games at his alma mater and guided the school to its one and only playoff appearance. His father Charles, a Ripley High graduate, started the Meigs program in 1967 and captured 110 wins during his career as head coach of the Marauders.
Todd Chevalier – The former head coach at both South Charleston and Sissonville showed interest in the Ripley job 10 years ago when Marino retired. Chevalier was the defensive coordinator for SC’s state title team in 1994. He also has coaching experience at West Virginia State as an assistant.
Alan Fiddler – It seems when jobs open in the Mountain State, Fiddler’s name comes up. Fiddler is currently the head coach at Patrick Henry High in Roanoke, Virginia. Before that he directed the program at Glenville State College, where he once played quarterback, for seven seasons. Fiddler is one of the most successful coaches in the history of West Virginia high school football. He owns the best playoff record at 28-2. He posted a 98-28 record at Moorefield, leading Yellowjacket teams to six state titles (including a record four in a row) and a runner-up finish in 10 seasons.
Justin Frashier – A Ripley High assistant who has a good offensive mind. Frashier comes from a football family with both his father, Jim, and brother, Jimmy, serving many years in the coaching business. Frashier is currently Ripley High’s girls basketball coach.
Dwayne Hicks – A Viking assistant coach who has specialized in working the technical aspects of offensive line play. Hicks is a former Ripley standout who later played at Glenville. He was the first starting center at GSC for a young head coach named Rich Rodriguez. Hicks has also coached wrestling and track and field in Jackson County.
Adam Hill – The former Viking standout returned to Ripley last summer and served as Frashier’s offensive coordinator. Hill has a plethora of coaching experience at not only the high school level but also on the college and semi-pro scene. He played college football at Glenville and also competed for semi-pro teams after his days with the Pioneers.
Adam King – During his playing days at Ripley, all King did was lead the Vikings in rushing three straight years. King then walked on at WVU and in later years earned playing time as a fullback and on special teams for Rich Rodriguez’s Mountaineers. King has been working as an assistant football and head wrestling coach for Bridgeport High the past few years. He’s also been an assistant coach at Robert C. Byrd High in Clarksburg.
Page 3 of 4 - Greg Knopp – One of the toughest players ever to put on a Ripley football uniform. After graduating from Ripley in 1980, Knopp moved on to Glenville and was a productive undersized player for the Pioneers. He has spent his teaching and coaching life in Clay County. In addition to his work in the classroom and on the playing fields, Knopp has also worked in Clay County’s central offices. Knopp spearheaded a project a few years ago to bring a top-notch baseball facility to Clay County.
Henry (Boob) Lanham – One of the finest linemen in Ripley High history, Lanham has spent the bulk of his career at Sissonville High School. As an assistant under Larry Jones, Lanham helped lead the Indians to the Class AA state title game in 1994. He later was the school’s head coach for six seasons and has since returned to work as an assistant once again. A star player at Glenville, Lanham also helped lead Musselman to a state championhip game appearance in 1983 in what was his first coaching stop.
Mike Reed – A long-time assistant during the Marino era, Reed was the architect of some outstanding Viking defenses. Reed stepped away from coaching after the 2002 season but is remembered for being a leader the players respected. Reed was a standout at old Dunbar High and then went on to enjoy a fine career at Glenville. He started his coaching career at Ripley and led the 1978 and 1979 freshmen football teams to back-to-back undefeated seasons which ultimately earned him the West Virginia State Junior High Coach of the Year award. Reed was also a part of Ripley’s successful baseball program for many years.
Steve Sayre – The one-time Viking standout along the offensive and defensive lines has worked with Ripley football the past few seasons. Sayre has head coaching experience in Ohio, guiding the program at Marietta High School. He played a big part in molding Ripley High’s wrestling into what it has become today.
Ryan Simon – A Ripley High assistant who worked with the quarterbacks last season while also leading the freshmen squad. Simon was once a Viking QB. He is an energetic guy who loves the game of football.
Eddie Smolder – For the past two seasons Smolder has served as the head coach at Sissonville High School. He was an assistant on the Indians staff prior to his head coaching appointment. Smolder enjoyed an outstanding playing career at both Ripley and Marshall. He coached at Ravenswood prior to the Sissonville move.
Jason Ward – Another Viking assistant under Frashier who possesses a wealth of knowledge. Ward was a standout player at Wirt County High for Frashier and launched his coaching career in Elizabeth before making his way to Jackson County. He is slowly but surely building a solid track and field program at Ripley High.
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