By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Independence High School has had three football coaches in its short history.
Following a summer full of controversy, the Patriots have finally found the man who will replace Scott Cuthbert, who retired in January following 25 seasons patrolling the sidelines of George D. Covey Field.
Chris Vicars, who spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator at Radford (Va.) High School, and last season as the defensive end coach at Summers County High School, was approved by the Raleigh County Board of Education during an executive meeting on Tuesday night.
“Coach Vicars has an excellent pedigree as a high school football coach,” superintendent James G. Brown said in an e-mail. “He will be a very good fit for the Independence High School football program.”
“I’m excited,” Vicars said. “I’ve been a football coach for a while, and for the last four or five years I wanted to step up and be a head coach at the high school level. I’m very fortunate. I’m excited and ready.”
During Vicars’ time with Radford, the Bobcats appeared in more than 20 playoff games, including six regional championships, four state semifinals and a state championship game.
He also helped the Summers County Bobcats to their first state playoff game since 1995 last season.
It’s a tradition he hopes will carry over to the Patriots, who are winless in their last seven playoff appearances under Cuthbert.
“Playoff football is special,” Vicars said. “Our goal is going to be to make the playoffs every year. Are we going to make it every year? I don’t know. I hope so, but I want the kids to know that it’s special.
“It’s an elite group when you’re down to the top 16 teams in the state. I want them to want to achieve it. It’s a big deal.”
Vicars takes over an Independence program that has been run by assistant coaches Richard Meece and Scotty and Mark Cuthbert while the recently hired Chuck Cooper was suspended over allegations of sending inappropriate messages to a student.
Cooper was fired on July 3.
“I want to meet the kids and introduce myself to the parents and the community,” Vicars said. “I’m not from West Virginia — I’m from Virginia — I’m a little new to the area, but I’ve been around football all my life. Hopefully the three coaches will stay on board, and we can come up with a gameplan to make this year a success.”
Part of the success Vicars hopes to find comes from the weight room.
“The weight room is a big part of any successful program,” Vicars said. “I really want to focus on the weight room and the kids. When they get in there and see how it’s going to benefit them, and they see the rewards, that’s when you hook them.”
Vicars, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001, was recently hired as a health and physical education teacher at Shady Spring High School.
But it wasn’t teaching or coaching that brought him to the Mountain State. It was his wife, Kari.
“I met the love of my life,” Vicars said with a chuckle. “She’s from West Virginia and just recently became an assistant principal at Summers County. We were married last June, and it made the move easy for me. I have three beautiful stepchildren. I’m here because of her.”
Vicars said his wife is also a football fan. The couple was married on the 50-yard line of Radford High School, and the processional was the school fight soon.
Another strong relationship that Vicars has developed while in West Virginia is with new Summers County coach Nate Tanner. The two worked beside each other on the defensive side of the ball for the Bobcats.
“Nate’s a really good friend,” Vicars said. “He just got married, and I talked to him the day he got back from his honeymoon. We’re good friends, but I still look forward to playing Summers County.”
Vicars promised to keep the rivalry friendly.
Independence will open the season on the road on Aug. 30 for the annual “Patriot Bowl” with Midland Trail. It will take on Summers County on Oct. 11 in Hinton.
Vicars will have a short amount of time to get to work. High School football practice begins in West Virginia on Aug. 5.
— E-mail: jrollins
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.