Familiar faces and remembering Jearl Parsons

Mark Martin

When you look around, it’s always easy to find plenty of familiar faces on the sports scene.

Here are some with Jackson County ties...

TUMBLING BOBCATS: Ripley High graduate Alexis Johnson is in her second season as the head tumbling and acrobatic coach at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon.

Johnson was a four-year competitor in the sport at Fairmont State University, where she earned a degree in exercise science.

She launched her coaching career at FSU as a student-assistant and helped lead the Falcons to a Mountain East Conference title.

Johnson’s first Wesleyan team had seven athletes on the NCATA Academic Honor Roll.

One of her current team members is recent Ripley High graduate Sydni Cunningham, who excelled in both soccer and track and field as a Lady Viking.

ELY’S JACKETS: One-time Ravenswood High student-athlete Rob Ely is again a part of the West Virginia State men’s basketball program.

The 1982 graduate serves as the team’s Nation's of Coaches character coach.

Ely and his wife, Beth, a former Jackson County school teacher and cross county coach, now reside in Huntington.

FAULK-LORE: It is hard to believe, but former Ripley High head boys basketball coach Evan Faulkner is now in his fifth season as an assistant at the University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Faulkner guided Ripley to back-to-back winning seasons in the campaigns of 2014-15 and 2015-16.

His role at UPIKE is associate head coach. He is working on the staff of first-year head coach Tigh Compton, who replaced long-time head coach and current athletic director Kelly Wells.

Going into this season, UPIKE had won 101 games with Faulkner a part of the program.

He had the chance to work with one of his former players, Luke Layhew, while at Pikeville. Layhew earned NAIA All-America honors while playing for the Bears. He wrapped up his career last season.

Before Ripley, Faulkner was an assistant at the University of Charleston, where he finished his college days as a player.

Faulkner first played at Radford University following a storybook high school career at Elliott County High School in Kentucky. He was involved with a program that won 135 games and competed in the prestigious Sweet 16 State Tournament three times.

MR. 600: Randy Shuman just won his 600th game as a high school head coach in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Shuman is the long-time leader of the highly-successful program Boga Ciega. A program Shuman is responsible for building.

As a young coach, Shuman, a native of Sistersville, joined the Ravenswood boys basketball program of head coach Mick Price as an assistant while doing his student teaching in the school year of 1979-80.

That was Price’s second season at the helm of the Runnin’ Red Devils and his squad ended a 30-year drought by reaching the State Tournament in Morgantown.

Shuman not only coached that season at Ravenswood for Price but was one of his former players when he was working at old Sistersville High, now a part of Tyler Consolidated.

The likeable Shuman is set to retire at the end of this season.

REMEMBERING JEARL PARSONS: For years, there wasn’t a time when I would see Jearl Parsons that the first words out of his mouth were, “How’s Mark?”

The answer at the moment would be sad  due to Jearl’s recent passing.

The father of dear friend Happy Joe Parsons, Jearl was yet another of those second dads I was blessed to have while growing up in Ripley.

Several of them have died in recent months.

Jearl loved his own three children in addition to all of the others who were a part of this great community.

He spent many years working as a coach for the Generals in Ripley’s old Midget Football League.

Jearl was a great Christian man and will be sorely missed.