Valley, Magnolia Welcome New Coaches This Season
The Valley Lumberjacks football team is coming off a respectable season in 2015 with a 7 and 3 record. With a win-loss stat like that, hopes will be high for this year’s team. But, this season’s team has lost several seniors who last year played in key positions. The Lumberjacks also lost last year’s head coach, Shane Highley, who led the team to that record. Some may believe this season will get off to a tough start with such key losses. But not Logan Miller, the new head coach for the 2016 season.
Coach Miller is not new to the Lumberjack program. He graduated in 2007 from Valley and played quarterback on his senior team. After graduation he went to Fairmont College where he earned his degree in Physical Education. Even during his college years he helped coach basketball at North Marion, gaining experience in high school sports. In 2012 he returned to Valley High School as a teacher and worked with the football program.
One fact I realized in talking with Coach Miller is that Valley’s football team is a family of players and coaches. He describe his staff and the players as being part of the community for their entire careers. He believes this tight bond will be part of what brings the team together on the field.
I asked about his coaching staff and the jobs they will be handling this year. Coach Miller explained he was the offensive coordinator for the 2015 season, a job he will again be handling this year. Coach Dave Palmer will handle both the offense and defensive lines. Chris Kocher will handle special teams, as well as coach the quarterback and wide receiver positions. The Lumberjack defense will be called by Coach Jeff Derby.
Coach Miller explained how each season’s the offensive game is dictated by skills at key player positions. His, along with his coaching staff’s, job is to recognize that year’s talent, and each coach works to develop the strongest skills while always working to improve other areas.
I asked what game plan he, as the new head coach, sees in developing his team. He pointed out that this is not college football where you can recruit to play the type of game the coach likes. In high school ball you have to build your program around the talent that shows up for each season’s team. This year 30 players stepped up to accept the challenge from his coaching staff to do the very best they can. Eight of this season’s players are seniors.
One good thing he explained is that this year’s seniors and juniors saw playing time last year – something he believes will be strategic to this year’s program. This year, Tyler Kocher will step in to the quarterback position after playing as a running back last year. The 2015 season quarterback, Trey Street, had 3000 yards to his credit and a very good offensive line, an impressive number for the record books. But, Coach Miller believes Kocher will fill that position and lead his team toward a season with playoff hopes.
Coach Miller said, fundamentally, his program will be to spread the game out. He also said many of his players will play both ways, Ironman football. The Lumberjacks will be tested in their first two games – against Tygart Valley and South Harrison. Both teams strength is in their ground game which they run 90 percent of the time. The Valley defensive line will have to step up and stop the run game. Coach Miller pointed out several times that he has a great group of players and coaches that will meet that challenge. He also said the support from the community in helping out with the field preparations; team support makes the Valley football team feel like a family program.
Finally, I asked Miller where he wants to be in five years. He paused and then said, “In five years I want to have built a successful program? back in the 90s everyone knew the Valley Lumberjacks. In five years I want that to be the same.”
With Coach Miller’s enthusiasm, he and the 2016 Lumberjacks are well on their way to fullfilling his team’s goal of returning to this year’s playoffs.
The record of the 2015 Blue Eagles is one for the record books – a perfect season and a state championship.
However, this is 2016, and Coach Sims – along with fifteen skilled seniors from that championship team – have moved on. But, new Head Coach Dave (Doc) Chapman is ready to move on with this year’s team and make his own record book.
Coach Chapman spoke passionately about the members of this season’s team. He explained how this year’s team understands it is their time to step up and fill their positions on the field. Carrying the title of state champions makes this year’s opponents bring their A game – something Magnolia always expects from any other team. However, this year is a new journey toward the post-season play, last year’s success does not give the Blue Eagles an easy path forward. Coach Chapman is certain his team can meet that challenge with the help of his coaching staff. He expressed great confidence in the coaches’ ability to teach players what they needed to know to play the game. He remembered something he was told by Dave Cisar when he began his coaching career: “Coach them as if they know nothing.” Cisar undoubtedly meant you have to be a coach and be a leader. Doc has always strived to remember those words throughout his career.
Coach Chapman attended school at Magnolia. After graduation in 1980, he went to college at West Virginia Tech. There, he played tight end all four years. In 1986 he was selected to try out at the NFL combine. After that try out, he was picked up by New England. Unfortunately his professional career was not to be played on the field. A persistent wrist injury kept him on the injured reserve list for two years. He did indicate that experience was invaluable to him as a future coach and helped to opened doors along the way.
When he returned to Magnolia in 1988, he soon began working with Dave Cisar in football and Bob Ripley with basketball – two of the valley’s premiere coaches from whom he learned a great deal. During that time, Coach Chapman worked as a substitute teacher. Then, in 1992, he found a full-time teaching position at St. Mary’s High School, and eventually he also became the head coach of the school’s football program. In 1998 when Mark Batton took on the head coaching position at Magnolia, he asked Doc to return and help out with coaching the Blue Eagles. At the time Chapman was teaching in Belmont. In 2002 he was offered the head coaching position at Williamstown. For the next two seasons his team went undefeated in regular season play and into the season’s playoffs. Doc made a decision after the second season that he wanted to spend time with his family. Five years later, in 2007, Mark Batton again asked Chapman to return to Magnolia. This time it seems he has come home for good.
Coach Chapman talked about his outstanding coaching staff for this 2016 season, Ken Pilant, Travis Emch, Drew Schmalz, Eric Conner and John Smith.
He feels this is one of the best coaching staffs in the state. Each is experienced and dedicated to coaching and teaching the team skills needed to play the game and win.
Coach Chapman expressed confidence that Nick Priem, Chase Street, Brooks Parson, Leo Herrick and Dylan Conner will be leaders on the field, helping the younger players. He believes this is important to this season’s team success. That team leadership is key to continuing the Blue Eagles as a major force in state football.
When I talked with Coach Chapman and Coach Miller, it is very apparent they each feel they have come home in their coaching positions. Each is comfortable and confident with his coaching staff, players and community support, to contribute to this season’s achievements on the field. The coaches also realize they are the head coaches for the 2016 season, and the football stops with them. When the whistle blows and the first game begins, they are each prepared to manage their teams toward another exciting season. Good luck to both Coach Chapman and Coach Miller in success for their teams this season, as I look Through the Lens.