When I called Terry Landis earlier this week, it was my hope he had already heard the news about the passing of his former coach Ernie Moore.
Unfortunately, he had not.
It was tough relaying to Terry the loss of this man who served as his football leader in the season of 1968 – his final in a Viking uniform.
Landis was a Class AAA First Team All-Stater that season for Moore, who was in his first year of three as Ripley’s head football coach.
With Landis as his standout quarterback and linebacker, Ripley put together a 7-3 record that season.
It was a campaign culminating with one of the biggest upsets in Jackson County football history and for that matter its entire sports history as the Vikings took down the undefeated (9-0) Ravenswood Red Devils, 12-0.
Landis enjoyed just the one season with Moore, but it is a season that has long been cherished.
Years later in 2015, the two were inducted together into the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Both are also members of the Ripley Viking Football Hall of Fame.
The Viking football team of 1968 left an indelible mark on my life.
As a second-grader, this is the season where my love of sports kicked into another gear. I’ve pretty much been eating, sleeping and drinking sports ever since.
In my eyes, Ernie Moore was a big, big deal.
Being so young, I never got to actually meet him before he left Ripley.
As the years moved forward I finally got the chance to speak with him over the phone while doing a story about the history of Hatchet games. It was really cool to talk to him. He was, after all, the first Ripley football coach I could truly remember.
One year at the West Virginia High School Boys State Basketball Tournament when he was recognized at halftime as a retired coach, I met him for the first time in person.
A pro athlete or rock star could have been right there in my presence, as well, but my attention would have solely been on shaking Ernie Moore’s hand.
We developed a great friendship. Many phone calls and face-to-face get togethers would follow through the years.
I always loved hearing him say, “Hi Mark. How’s Mark doing?”
For those who had him as a teacher and coach, he is remembered as a hard worker and for his likeability.
He treated his students and athletes as equals.
Moore’s time in Ripley was short, but certainly memorable.
In addition to the great Hatchet victory, he also had Ripley knocking on the door the following season of a perfect record.
The Vikings jumped out to a 7-0 start before injuries took their toll and the team finished with a fine 8-2 mark.
Moore is one of five former Ripley High head football coaches and one of eight from Jackson County to be inducted into the Mid-Ohio Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
It’s a group that includes Paul Lanham (Ripley), Robert “Red” Hill (Ripley), Marcus McPhail (Ripley), Frank Marino (Ripley), Fred Taylor (Ravenswood), Dick Sturm (Ravenswood) and Jim Spano.
Prior to Ripley, Moore had enjoyed coaching success at both Wirt County High School and Caldwell High School in Ohio.
He went back to the Buckeye State after his days with the Vikings to coach at Warren Local. He finished up his great coaching career at Braxton County High School.
His years as Ripley’s head coach lasted just a mere three years. But he did a lot in a short amount of time.
In addition to those back-to-back winning seasons, which included the Hatchet upset for the ages and having a team on the brink of the school’s first perfect season, Moore was right in the middle of a major renovation project at Memorial Stadium.
Prior to the 1969 season, new concrete bleachers were erected at the home of the Vikings to create a place for fans to watch their beloved blue and white. Moore and fellow assistant Corky Griffith poured the footers for those bleachers and worked daily in some capacity to see the project’s completion.
It gave Viking football virtually a new home. It instantly became one of the state’s finest stadiums. For years and years, postseason football has been played there.
In all of his coaching stops, Ernie Moore gave it everything he had.
He certainly did at Ripley.
He was a sound leader, possessing not only a hard-nosed work ethic but a friendly, classy demeanor that was second to none.
Those who either knew him while he was here in Jackson County or later in life are truly blessed.
His passing creates a void.
It leaves us all wanting just a bit more of this wonderful gentleman named Ernie Moore.