JACKSON COUNTY - In just a matter of weeks, a new era for small college athletics in West Virginia will begin.
The Mountain East Conference will begin play with many familiar faces from the old West Virginia Conference.
The WVC served most of the state's small schools for close to 90 years. But the decision was made by many members that it was time for something new – thus, the MEC was formed.

The final order of business for the West Virginia Conference came this spring with its tennis, track and field, softball and baseball championships.

It's going to take some getting used to when talking about the new league and no longer referring to the West Virginia Conference.

I have a lot of great memories when it comes to the league. By the time I was in second grade, the world of sports consumed my life. I followed the likes of Glenville, Fairmont State, Wesleyan, West Virginia State, Morris Harvey (now the University of Charleston), West Liberty, Wheeling, Salem, West Virginia Tech, Shepherd, Davis & Elkins, Bluefield State, Alderson-Broaddus and Concord.

Most of the aforementioned schools are now going to be a part of the MEC. Glenville, Fairmont, Wesleyan, State, UC, West Liberty, Wheeling Jesuit, Shepherd, Concord are all going to stay together and will be joined by Urbana, Ohio, Notre Dame College of Ohio and Virginia-Wise.

Through the years, several area players moved on to play sports in the West Virginia Conference. I decided to look back through the archives and find some Ravenswood and Ripley standouts who earned First Team All-West Virginia Conference in football. For fun, I added a few other names of individuals who are linked to the two schools in some capacity.

It is interesting to note that virtually all of the one-time All-WVC performers ended up in the field of education.
Steve McMillion, 1958, Center, Glenville State – After his playing days, the Summersville native made his way to Jackson County and ultimately served as both the head football and basketball coach at Ripley High. He produced several outstanding teams, including a 9-1 football squad and a 19-game winner in basketball. McMillion, remembered also for being an excellent English teacher, left Ripley to become the first head football coach at Parkersburg South.
McMillion is a member of the Ripley High School Viking Football Hall of Fame.

Dick Sturm, 1963, Center, Salem College – After a stellar career at Calhoun County High School under the legendary Harry Underwood, Sturm moved on to Salem College to play for Harry's brother, Ted. Sturm was highly respected while at SC. He is a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame. It saddens him that the school no longer has football. Sturm worked one year at Magnolia High School before coming to Ravenswood and working with Fred Taylor. He was a part of two state Class AA championship teams during his time as an assistant. He then served 15 seasons as the school's head coach and guided the Red Devils to a Class AA runner-up finish in 2010.

Jim Frashier, 1968, Middle Guard, Glenville State – One of the greatest players ever to don a uniform in GSC history, Frashier was not only an All-WVC First Teamer but an NAIA All-American. Frashier went to Glenville following an outstanding high school career at Ripley.

After coaching for a short time at old Pennsboro High School, Frashier returned to his alma mater and was both a successful assistant football coach, head wrestling coach and girls softball coach. He was the architect for some of Ripley's greatest football teams in the '80s.

He left teaching and coaching to move into administration. He ended his career in Jackson County as the principal at Ripley High School.
Frashier is a member of the Ripley High School Viking Football Hall of Fame, Glenville State College Athletic Hall of Fame and the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

Terry Landis, 1971, Middle Guard, West Virginia Wesleyan – One of Ripley High's greatest athletes displayed unbelievable versatility during his college career in Buckhannon. Landis played on both sides of the ball. He was also an outstanding quarterback for the Bobcats during his career.

While at Ripley High School, Landis was a First Team All-State football player, became the school's all-time leading scorer in basketball and was an exceptional baseball player.

After college, he returned to Jackson County and worked many years as a highly skilled elementary and middle school teacher. Landis also spent many years coaching football, boys basketball and girls basketball and various levels.
Steve Buffington, 1972, End, Glenville State – One of Ravenswood High School's top all-around athletes, "Buff" moved on to Glenville and became a skilled receiver during the successful Bill Hanlin era. He was instrumental in leading Glenville to the NAIA national championship game in 1973. He caught both TD passes in the national semifinal victory played at Ripley's Memorial Stadium.

After college, he received a professional tryout in the old World Football League but an injury sidelined his shot at the next level.

Buffington was a great football player, wrestler and track and field performer for Ravenswood.

Professionally, he became a teacher, coach and athletic trainer. He was instrumental in Ripley's wrestling program being what it is today. Buffington later entered administration and served as an assistant principal at Ravenswood High.
Buffington is a member of the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame.

Jim Abshire, 1975-76, Linebacker, West Virginia State – Known as "Abby" during his Ripley High playing days, Abshire was a hard-nosed center and linebacker. He earned Class AAA First Team All-State in 1972 and was voted the school's Athlete of the Year in 1973.

Abshire headed off to Institute to play football for the Yellow Jackets of West Virginia State. Abshire proved not only to be one of the league's top defenders but the country's. He twice earned All-WVC honors and was named an NAIA All-American.

After State, Abshire entered the teaching and coaching business. He was a part of two Class AA state championships at Poca, serving as the defensive coordinator for the Dots.
Bryce Casto, 1978-80, Offensive Lineman, West Virginia State – A superb three-sport athlete at Ripley High, Casto became one of the top offensive lineman in the conference during his time of the league's most dominant offensive lineman during his career. Casto, a tight end/defensive end in high school, moved grew into his tall frame and became a three-time First Team All-Conference pick.

After State, Casto became a teacher, coach and athletic trainer. He started his coaching career at Ravenswood before heading back to West Virginia State. Casto then became the head football coach at South Charleston High School and over eight years built the Black Eagle program into one of the state's best. Casto guided the 1994 SC team to the Class AAA state championship and earned the State Coach of the Year Award.

He later became the athletic director and then vice president at State. He is now teaching and coaching at Nitro.
Todd Layhew, 1988, Linebacker, Glenville State – Layhew has been a part of the area for several years since coming to Jackson County to work as an assistant principal at Ripley High School. He would later serve as the principal for RpHS and is now the assistant director of the Jackson-Roane Vocational School.

During his playing days, Layhew was a hard-hitting linebacker for the Pioneers leading to his All-WVC status.
Before going to Glenville, he was a star athlete at Grafton High School. He helped lead the Bearcats to the Class AA state championship in 1985.

Kevin Copley, 1994, Punter, Fairmont State – A fine all-around athlete at Ravenswood High, Copley became a steady special teams force during his time at Fairmont State. It truly paid off in the season of 1994 when he earned First Team honors.

After his great career at Fairmont, Copley, the son of long-time Ravenswood coach Duke Copley, made his way to the Eastern Panhandle to teach and coach. He has worked for a number of schools in the state of Virginia and has enjoyed great success.

Eric Reed, 2002, Punter, Glenville State – In 2002, Reed became yet another Jackson County native to become a proven special teams performer for the Pioneers. Reed was quite a weapon for GSC with his powerful left foot.
Reed was also used in other area while at Glenville.

He was an excellent football player, wrestler and track and field performer at Ravenswood.