Football has been a big part of Eddie Smolder’s life for as long as he can remember.
And it always will be.
For now, though, he has made the gut-wrenching decision to step away from being the head football coach at Ripley High School – his alma mater.
“You know when it’s time,” Smolder said on Monday.
Smolder just completed his fifth season as head coach of the Vikings with Ripley finishing 4-6.
The Vikings were on the cusp of the Class AAA playoffs for a second straight year. They finished 18th in the final set of ratings with the Top 16 advancing to the postseason.
Ripley lost several tight games, including a two-point loss to Riverside and a double-overtime decision to Greenbrier East. Both Riverside and East reached the postseason in Class AAA.
Two other close calls came against Marietta, Ohio and Princeton by a touchdown.
The Vikings fell to Parkersburg South in the opener. South is presently 10-1 and will face Musselman this Saturday in a Class AAA quarterfinal round playoff game.
The other defeat was at the hands of a solid Point Pleasant team.
A relentless worker, Smolder said the hours spent coaching are enormous.
“I’ve probably put in 10 years worth of work in my five years here,” he said.
Smolder returned to his alma mater to be a head coach after a successful run at Sissonville High School, where he had also worked as an assistant.
In four years as the Indians head coach, Smolder compiled a 24-19 record, which included back-to-back Class AA playoff appearances in 2013 and 2014. His 2013 team captured a win at home against Mingo Central on the turf of Joe Sawyer Field in the opening round. While Sissonville had reached and won playoff games in the past, this was the first ever played on the school's campus.
He also spent a season as an assistant in the Ravenswood program.
Smolder was a standout player at Ripley, earning Class AAA First Team All-State his senior year in 1997.
He earned a full football scholarship to Marshall and was an outstanding contributor on special teams during his time there and was a starter at H-back his senior season.
Smolder, who had a record of 25-27 as Ripley’s head coach, guided the Vikings to the quarterfinal round of the Class AAA playoffs last season, finishing with a fabulous 10-2 record.
The Viking team tied a school record by stringing together 10 straight wins.
Just like this past season's team, his 2017 squad also suffered close calls that would likely have made them a playoff team.
“I just need to take some time off from coaching,” he said. “I love Ripley High School and I love Ripley football.
“I just know it’s been a good ride.”
Without question, Smolder leaves big shoes to fill for the Viking football program.