CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Riverside had a head start on South Charleston and is further along in its quest to hire a new football coach.Those two Kanawha County high schools had vacancies to fill when veteran coaches Ralph Hensley (Riverside) and John Messinger (SC) stepped down following their respective seasons.Riverside Principal Valery Harper said her five-member committee has interviewed seven of the eight applicants for the job, and hopes to wrap up that process on Friday."We hope to have a decision prepared and ready to go by Monday, but it could be before then,'' Harper said. "I want to call all the applicants whether they get the job or not and let them know we appreciate them wanting to be part of our Riverside family.''
The Riverside committee is comprised of Harper, athletic director Jonathan Veazey, an assistant principal and a community representative of the two high schools that merged into Riverside - DuPont and East Bank.Harper declined to name those who had already interviewed, but said some were from outside the Riverside community and not currently employed in the school system and one hails from outside West Virginia.The Gazette has learned that two of the eight applicants at Riverside are current Warriors assistant coaches Nate Johnson and Jamie McDonough. Another is Jay Phares, defensive coordinator at Patrick Henry (Va.), whose head coach is former Moorefield and Glenville State coach Alan Fiddler.South Charleston, meanwhile, trails Riverside in its search process because it hasn't conducted interviews yet.The position was still posted on the Kanawha County Schools hotline until midnight Wednesday, so Principal Mike Arbogast didn't yet know the full field of applicants. He said interviews are scheduled for next week."We're going to move quickly,'' Arbogast said. "We hope to have things in place soon, and we hope to make a formal announcement before Christmas break.''Arbogast likewise declined to name applicants the position has drawn so far, but the Gazette has learned that they include Donnie Mays, SC's current offensive coordinator, George Washington assistant Jason Smith, who has been on the Patriots' staff since 2001, and former SC head coach Todd Chevalier, who went 19-41 with the Black Eagles from 1996-2000.Mays' interest was almost expected, owing to his success directing SC's high-scoring attack, which claimed back-to-back Class AAA titles in 2008-09."South Charleston is the only place I applied,'' Mays said. "I like South Charleston, and I've been here six, seven years. I put my name in the hat, and I'm hopeful for an opportunity.''Arbogast said teachers in the school system will be given first priority, and that he and his interview committee hope to have a list of names by Friday.Both schools look to have their recommendations ready for the final hurdle in the hiring process, approval by the Kanawha County Board of Education, whose next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 20.
"Our program's not broken,'' Arbogast said. "I don't want to drag this out to where it's a problem within our own program. I'm doing that for the kids more than anything.''Rumor and speculation, fueled in part by Internet message boards, have thrown a lot of names into the mix at both schools that have proven false.For instance, former Cabell Midland coach Chip McMillian was thought to be interested in the current openings, but he said on Wednesday that wasn't true."It's right that I am interested in getting back into coaching,'' McMillian said, "but the situation has to be right. I don't want to leave my job.''McMillian is employed by the Cabell County Board of Education as energy manager. He took Midland to the Class AAA semifinals three times in 11 seasons.Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.