Prep football: Messinger resigns as SC coach
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. - John Messinger said his moment of clarity came in a tree stand while deer hunting last week.
"I was just sitting there thinking, and it's not like I've got I'm dying and I've got a bucket list of things I want to get done, but ... there's things I'd really like to do," Messinger said, explaining his reasons for stepping down from his position as football coach at South Charleston High School.
Messinger, 59, coached the Black Eagles to Class AAA state championships in 2008 and 2009. In seven seasons as head coach, Messinger compiled a record of 62-21.
It was the George Washington High School and Marshall graduate's only head coaching job.
"I said a few years ago that within the next few years, you're going to see a lot of the old guard step aside," Messinger said Monday night. "I'm just the next guy in line."
Of 12 Kanawha Valley high schools that field football teams, nine have changed coaches at least once since 2007. Only GW (Steve Edwards Jr.), Poca (Bob Lemley) and Buffalo (Mike Sawyer) have the same coach as they did six seasons ago.
Prior to Messinger, the most recent change came at Riverside, where veteran coach Ralph Hensley retired after six seasons at the helm of the Warriors program.
Among activities Messinger listed at the top of his to-do list were visiting his daughter, Ella Messinger, who plays volleyball for Glenville State College, more frequently for games.
Also, a return to Messinger's former passion might be in the works, he said.
"I was looking at this website for a power-lifting competition, and was looking at their 60-69-year-old age division," he said. "I thought, 'I can throw it around as good as these guys.' I can't do it all the time, but I can still shove it around.
"So, I might do that again. I'd really like to."
Never a self-proclaimed tactician, Messinger's success at South Charleston came largely from his ability to manage a capable staff of assistant coaches, and from instilling self-discipline into a program that had for years been equipped with talent but lacking the on-field results to show it.
"It's never been about the Xs and Os. I've always said that," Messinger said.
"I love the game. I love football. But mostly, it's about the kids. I've always tried to stress the importance of being good sons, good citizens and good students. Hopefully the next guy they get in there will be able to continue that message."
The irony of Messinger's emphasis on discipline is that his last playoff win came on Nov. 19, 2010, against Hurricane.
That game, now remembered more for the benches-clearing brawl between the Eagles and Redskins that ended it prematurely, saw SC rally from sure defeat in the final minutes to secure a third consecutive trip to the Class AAA playoff semifinals. Messinger and his team led by 2009 Kennedy Award-winning quarterback Tyler Harris, defeated Brooke in the semis, but were later forced to forfeit the win for the use of several players who had been ejected from the quarterfinal victory, including Harris.
South Charleston has not returned to the playoffs since. The team finished 6-4 in 2012, but a 7-6 upset loss at Ripley on Oct. 19 effectively kept it out of the postseason.
With a win over the Vikings, the Black Eagles would have been seeded No. 9 in the Class AAA playoffs. They finished at No. 17, tied with Logan.
One of the potential options for Messinger's replacement is current SC offensive coordinator Donnie Mays. The architect of the Black Eagles' zone-read offense under Messinger, Mays has been considered one of the best potential coaches in the area for several years, but has remained with the SC program as many other schools have hired new coaches. Most recently, Mays' name has been mentioned by various sources as a candidate for the job at Riverside.