He was hard to find for a week or so, but Ralph Hensley was in attendance Friday night to watch George Washington top Lewis County in the Class AAA playoff quarterfinals.
Hensley confirmed that he had retired from coaching following the Warriors' 2-8 season. In six seasons with Riverside, Hensley put together a 26-35 record. The largest high school in Kanawha County has not reached the playoffs since 2007, Hensley's first season as head coach after an eight-year stint as an assistant to Dick Whitman.
One reason Hensley did not immediately respond to inquiries regarding his retirement was that he was out of the area. Hensley, who retired from teaching after the 2010-11 school year, said he retreated to his native Mingo County for a few days following the season.
In fact, he sent his All-State ballot to this office from Williamson via certified mail to ensure its arrival from an area notorious for tricky mail delivery. It was one of the first five ballots filed by coaches from across the state.
As an aside, Mingo Central Coach Yogi Kinder has been sent five All-State ballots in the two seasons of that school's existence.
"Cost me eight bucks, but I wanted to make sure you got it," Hensley said. "I know we didn't have a great year but there's some kids that played for us that I really think deserve some mention."
There's been a school of thought around the Kanawha County prep football world that says Hensley remained on as coach after ending his teaching career for the sole purpose of chasing the county's all-time wins record, held by Whitman. That's too simple to be true.
Whitman ended his coaching career in 2006 after 181 wins. Hensley entered the 2012 season with 174 wins, and thus finishes his career five short of tying his old boss and older rival. The two were the coaches at DuPont (Whitman) and East Bank (Hensley) when those schools were combined to create Riverside in 1999.
Plenty of coaches have retired or left their posts for other positions in the six seasons that I have served as chairman of the All-State football committee for the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. In fact, Hensley's stepping down pushes that number to 70 since 2007.
There are currently 116 football-playing schools in West Virginia. High school football coaching is not a long-term job for many.
It was for Hensley. When a person is in a career field in which he enjoys success, it is hard to step away even for presumably greener pastures. Of those who have left their jobs in the last six years, few have followed through with filing an All-State ballot after their final game.