Lukas Moore -- Who will be the next TVC-Ohio coaching legend?
Head football coach is an honorable title in today’s sports centric society. Especially in Ohio, where a legendary football coach can be written into a town’s history. Tiger Laverde, who has coached Kirtland to an unspeakable amount of state championships, is the proverbial mayor of the city. Phil Faires is one of the most influential figures is Glouster today, and he still has legacy to write with the Tomcats. Dave Boston is a legendary name in Nelsonville, father and son. Ryan Adams is beginning his retirement as an Athens legend and even Vinton County yearns for the days of Jack O’Rourke.
The TVC-Ohio this year will be absent of these legends, instead it’ll be a group of coaches trying build a program to eventually put themselves into the category of legend. Four of the seven teams in the TVC-Ohio will have a new head coach, two of those coaches have never been a head coach in their career (Nathan White, Travis Bethel). Even Rusty Richards, the longest tenured coach in the conference, is just entering his 4th season at the helm of the Buckeyes.
This newness and optimism lends itself room for interesting questions. Like, which of these coaches has the best opportunity to become a ‘legend’? Well, I’ve answered it with these “Most Likely to be a Legend” rankings.
These rankings aren’t just a ranking of the best coaches in the conference, since becoming a legend is more than just on-field success, but also how the community embraces that success. I’ve also considered factors such as longevity in the position, since legends usually hang around for 10 years.
Rusty Richards – Nelsonville-York Buckeyes – 4th season – Career Record: 26-10
Richards is the obvious frontrunner on this list. In fact, he’s already had enough accomplishments to be a legend in some people’s eyes. He has already won two conference championships and the first regional title for the Buckeyes since ’83. He came into a program that was floundering and filled with drama and rescued the Buckeye program after a 1-9 season.
What’s he need to become a legend? Time. If Richards and the Buckeyes continue at the rate established in his first three seasons legend status is only a matter of longevity.
Travis Bethel – Vinton County Vikings – 1st season – Career Record: 0-0
Most would place Nathan White for Athens in this spot on the list, and although I think White might be a better coach than Bethel, Bethel has a much easier path to being a ‘legend’. Bethel won’t need to win regional titles or multiple conference championships over the next 10 years to be a legend in McArthur. If Bethel can hold onto a winning record more times than not, win one or two TVC-Ohio titles, and make a few playoff runs, he will be a legendary coach in Vinton County football history.
I also think Bethel has the coaching pedigree, commitment to community, and the talent to establish a consistent winning culture in Vinton County. He was just named to the Vinton County athletics Hall of Fame for his contributions to the last Viking TVC championship in ’99, he was a college player and coach at Union College, and his staff was set before he was hired. He’s young, dedicated to Vinton County, and football savvy. Give me those three ingredients, PLUS low expectations, and I think the Vikings might have a legend in the making.
Earich Dean – Alexander Spartans – 3rd season – Career Record: 5-21
I was blown away by the job Earich Dean did with the Alexander Spartans in 2018. A team seemingly guaranteed to go 1-9 was a 4-6 squad that was a few breaks away from 6-4. They were a factor in the TVC-Ohio and showed signs of a program heading in the right direction. Dean caught a bad rap after his half season trying to replace Boston Jr. at Nelsonville-York.
His program does face participation concerns, but the players who are there are certainly bought into their head coach. Dean learned from the late great Dave Boston, and knows what it takes to build a consistent winning program. The reason he comes in above White is the same as Bethel, it won’t take much to be a legend at Alexander. One or two conference titles and 10 years of .500 or better records should elevate Dean to a football legend in Albany.
Nathan White – Athens Bulldogs – 1st season – Career Record: 0-0
There are Bulldog fans staring at this ranking who aren’t happy. Nathan White is the best offensive coordinator in the history of Ohio high school football, has the best facilities in the conference, and will assuredly have the most athletic team in the TVC for most of his upcoming tenure. I have no doubt Nathan White is going to rack up wins and conference championships for Athens. But TVC wins and conference championships just won’t be enough to become a green and gold legend. To be a legend White will need to elevate this program to consistent playoff success over the next 10 years.
The reason he’s lower than Dean and Bethel is not because he’s a worse coach. In fact, I think White will improve the Bulldogs program and is the best X’s and O’s coach in the conference. However, his climb to legend is much steeper than Dean or Bethel.
David Tennant – Meigs Marauders – 1st season – Career Record: 15-25
David Tennant finds himself in the weird position of replacing a legend who did nothing legendary. Although Mike Bartrum was considered a legend for his championship NFL career and his actions off the field in Pomeroy, he never did anything of note as the Meigs football coach. He went 33-37 with the Marauders, with no playoff appearances and just two winning seasons. But in the Meigs football community he will be “hard-to-replace”, and any failure by Tennant will be magnified. But, if Tennant does better than Bartrum it might elevate his legacy to “wow, he’s doing better than an NFL coach.”
Tennant’s coaching record isn’t excellent, but he showed some potential as he improved his record in year two at both Eastern and Ripley. Plus, with the most talented young athlete in the conference behind center in Coulter Cleland maybe Tennant can build a program in Pomeroy.
Mike Smith – Wellston Golden Rockets – 1st season – Career Record: 5-15 (in Ohio, WV record unknown)
Wellston thought the family name of their own legendary coach was going to help elevate the program. Well, the Lucas father-son combo has left the program again, this time to Coal Grove. This opened the door for Mike Smith to climb from South Gallia in the TVC-Hocking to Wellston in the TVC-Ohio. Mike Smith has a long rebuild ahead of him, something he was able to do at Tolsia in West Virginia. Smith led them to a 12-2 record and a state championship game in 2015.
The talent just isn’t in the Golden Rockets program to claim Smith has an easy path to legend. The last head coach to go from South Gallia to a team at the bottom of the TVC-Ohio? Jason Peck, who sits at the bottom of our rankings.
Jason Peck – River Valley Raiders – 2nd season – Career Record: 34-48
If Jason Peck wants to ever be considered a legendary coach the Raiders will need to far exceed expectations this year. He’s already coached 8 seasons, and has found limited success. Last year the Raiders lacked in every department, only managing one win. The Raiders and Peck couldn’t do much with the offense and the group looked unorganized until Peck took down South Gallia 8-0 in the final game.
Perhaps River Valley is ready to surprise some teams in the TVC-Ohio, and a surprise is what Peck needs if he wants to be a Raider legend.