By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Chuck Noll. Vince Lombardi. Nick Saban. Jerome Van Meter.
While all excellent men in the game of football, they represent something other than wins and losses. They were motivators. They were leaders. They were champions on and off the field. They made boys men and men legends.
When it comes to area high school football, the five nominees for The Register-Herald coach of the year do the same, teaching valuable lessons while coaching their teams to victory.
Benny Hopkins (Valley) — The Greyhounds finished the regular season 10-0, giving Valley its first ever undefeated season. Hopkins coached his team to several impressive victories, including a 16-8 win over Meadow Bridge and a 60-20 victory over Gilmer County to wrap up the regular season. Hopkins was the only coach to be awarded a game ball from The Register-Herald sports staff this season.
Lewis McClung (Greenbrier West) — No team in our area had it better this season than Greenbrier West. The Cavaliers (12-2) played tough on both sides of the ball, marching their way to Wheeling and a berth in the Class A championship game, leaving behind them an impressive collection of victories, including a 6-0 early season win over Nicholas County, a 55-0 beatdown on Independence and victories over Notre Dame, St. Marys and Magnolia in the playoffs. Their season came to an end in a heartbreaking loss to Madonna in the finals.
Gene Morris (Nicholas County) — Perhaps no team represented their mascot more than the Nicholas County Grizzlies. Morris motivated his team following an early-season loss to Oak Hill to go on an impressive seven-game winning streak that saw the Grizzlies dominate on offense and defense alike, outscoring their opponents 275-28.
Eddie Souk (Oak Hill) — Souk ended his career of more than 30 seasons after coaching the Red Devils to an 8-3 season and a No. 9 seed in the Class AAA playoffs. Oak Hill’s season ended in the first round to George Washington, but the Red Devils picked up a bit of bragging rights by defeating Woodrow Wilson 34-6 for their first victory over the Flying Eagles since Gerald Ford was president.
Nate Tanner (Summers County) — It was quite a first year for Tanner, who took over for former coach Josh Houchins this season. One of the youngest head coaches in the state, Tanner got the best out of his team, going 9-2 and hosting a playoff game for the first time in school history. The Bobcats picked up back-to-back quality wins over Wyoming East (17-14) and Greenbrier West (27-20).
The winner of the award will be announced next week, along with the offensive and defensive players of the year.
— E-mail: jrollins@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @JDanielRollins.