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A salute to former high school football coaching greats

By Frank Giardina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As the high school football season gets underway in our region, here are some coaches I miss seeing on area sidelines. 

  • Don Arthur - He coached East Bank to Class AAA state titles in 1971 and 1973. He had such players as Lester Weems, Claude Geiger, the O'Neal brothers and Howie Harris. Arthur joined Frank Ellwood's staff at Marshall and then landed in Florida, where he has had a long coaching career in Fort Walton Beach. 
  • Homer Criddle - A former player at  WVU, Criddle coached Robert Alexander and Carl Lee at South Charleston and then Bimbo Coles at Greenbrier East. He also coached a family full of Polcaris at South Charleston. His fans used to lovingly chant "Hey Diddle Diddle, Criddle up the Middle" when his teams - known for their toughness and physical play - would grind out another win. 
  • Corky Griffith - Who doesn't know Dana "Corky" Griffith? He is the unofficial mayor of Charleston and his courthouse is the Donut Connection in Kanawha City and the tailgate lots in Morgantown. He made football fun and he coached DuPont in an exciting era that produced Denny Ballard, Eddie Saunders, Mike Williams, Mark Shannon, Thad Snodgrass and others.
  • Tommy Groom - He did not coach high school ball here, but he was a great player at Charleston Catholic who went on to Virginia Tech. He was a longtime college coach who used to love to recruit kids from our state. He coached in Blacksburg, at Marshall, in the Ivy League at Brown, at Maryland and many other stops. We lost him way too young. 
  • Joel Hicks - Hicks coached great players at Big Creek High School in McDowell County, then at Woodrow Wilson in Beckley, as an assistant at WVU and was also a coaching legend in Virginia. He keeps himself in great shape and can still be seen running at Myrtle Beach in the summer.  
  • Bill Jarrett - The former Stonewall Jackson coach's program produced many college players, including Walt Easley, Ron McCartney, Denny Harrah, Paul Monroe, Keith Jones, Jon Jones and others. Behind the scenes, he also helped players from opposing schools get scholarships to college. 
  • Buddy James - The Parkersburg Big Reds were traditional powers under James, winning AAA state championships in 1976 and 1978. Along the way, he produced great players such as the Phillips brothers, George Elliott and Mike Scott. 
  • Roger Jefferson - Jefferson won at Charleston High and Capital High, and could have won anywhere.  I still remember interviewing him at Laidley Field when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush joined in our conversation. 
  • Leon McCoy - The former Charleston High and Winfield coach still casts a big shadow in our area. McCoy not only produced college players like Teddy Kester and Mike Barber, he also helped players from opposing schools get scholarships. He is the reason that current Marshall coach Doc Holliday got an opportunity to play at WVU.  
  • Mickey McDade - He was the Vince Lombardi of Charleston Catholic football in the 1960s, a larger-than-life figure who produced players such as Frank Criniti (Notre Dame), Terry Smoot (Virginia Tech) and Tommy Groom (Virginia Tech). He and longtime assistant Joe Cielinsky produced Fighting Irish teams that were known for physical play. 
  • Paul Skidmore - Skidmore was a longtime assistant at DuPont for Tom Bossie, Corky Griffith and Dick Whitman. He was never about himself. He was always about the kids.
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