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Prep football: New coaches take control at SC, Riverside

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Donnie Mays' patience has paid off, as the architect behind South Charleston's offense that blazed its way to two Class AAA state championships has been rewarded with the position of Black Eagles head coach.

Mays, who served under former Coach John Messinger from 2006-2012, was officially named coach Thursday night at the Kanawha County Board of Education meeting. He had previously been recommended for the post by SC Principal Mike Arbogast.

Steve Freeman, who most recently served as an assistant coach at Huntington High School, was named as the new head coach at Riverside at the meeting. Freeman takes over for Ralph Hensley, who retired following the Warriors' 2-8 finish to the 2012 season.

Riverside Principal Valarie Harper recommended Freeman for the post, which was met with some resistance Thursday by board member Pete Thaw, who complained about Freeman not being a candidate from Kanawha County.

Harper said she would "put my life on it," that Freeman was the best candidate for the position, and the board approved her recommendation.

Mays was the Black Eagles' offensive line coach in 2006 and 2007, then took over as offensive coordinator in 2008. That year, SC won the first of consecutive Class AAA titles.

"It's been a long process just working my way up to get the possibility to be a head coach," Mays said Thursday. "Honestly, I'm extremely happy to get that opportunity at South Charleston High School.

"The tough thing is that Coach Messinger's record is hard to live up to. The two state titles speak for themselves as to how successful he was."

Messinger resigned in November after the Black Eagles went 6-4 but missed the Class AAA playoffs for the second year in a row. He compiled a 62-21 record at South Charleston, which was his only career head coaching job.

As the coach who designed the offense for 2009 Kennedy Award-winning quarterback Tyler Harris, 2012 second-team All-Conference USA wide receiver Aaron Dobson, current Charlotte basketball starter Pierria Henry and current Marshall defensive tackle Blake Brooks, Mays said there might be more changes on the offensive side of the ball than on defense in 2013.

"I think we're going to get back to a little more of a running game," he said. "Last year, we didn't have a running back coach or offensive line coach, so my goal is to hire coaches in those positions so we can have a whole staff and hopefully get back to where we were before the last two seasons."

South Charleston was 5-5 in 2011. Mays said that during the program's peak under Messinger, from 2008-10, the Black Eagles averaged nearly 350 rushing yards per game.

"The last two years were the only two years since I've been here that we weren't at that level. We set goals like that, statistically, and I'd like to get back to that," Mays said.

He noted that the defensive staff, led by defensive coordinator Mike Sauvageot, will likely remain intact.

While Freeman enters his position as somewhat of an unknown, Mays' name has been swirled in the prep sports world as a potential candidate for numerous positions in the past several years. In fact, since 2007, nine of 12 Kanawha Valley football programs have changed head coaches, and Mays has been one of the most sought-after coaches among the fans and booster groups of numerous schools.

He never applied for any of those openings.

"You can go back and give credit for stuff like that to my high school playing days, playing for Joe Cowley at Herbert Hoover," said Mays, who played for the Huskies from 1994-97. "Loyalty means something, and we want to do that same sort of thing at the high school.

"The other opportunities that have come up, but it's not like we were rushing anything. We just wanted to build South Charleston and make it the best school it can be. You take a look and see what people like Dave Walker at Martinsburg have done for programs like that, and that's what we want to do here."

Mays has plenty of skill position talent as his disposal as he takes over the program. All-State wide receiver Kevin Forrest is a junior, and caught 43 passes for 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. Freshman quarterback Kentre Grier completed 82 of 122 passes for 1,549 yards, 17 TDs and just one interception while running for 238 yards.

2011 KV Rookie of the Year A.D. Cunningham and sophomore Marquel Hampton. the team's second-leading receiver in 2012, also return.

Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at or 3043-348-5170. Follow him at ;


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