Patrick Henry football coach Alan Fiddler received a text message recently informing him that he had passed the late Merrill Gainer on the Patriots’ career victory list.
“Who’s first?” he replied.
“You are,” was the answer.
Fiddler was certainly surprised to learn that with 61 victories in nine seasons at PH, he has won more games than any previous Patriots coach.
That includes Gainer, whose unbeaten 1973 team won the VHSL Group AAA championship and whose sculpted bronze bust greets anyone coming through the front gate of the stadium.
Normally each Friday in the fall, this column predicts the scores of Timesland high school football games.
With the 2020 season postponed until the winter of 2021 because of COVID-19, we will look into the past instead of the future.
This week, with the help of Roanoke Times files, various schools’ historians and the ever-growing statewide list compiled by Rick Baker at the fourseasonsfootball.com, we have a list of the winningest head coach at each of Timesland’s 44 schools.
For this list, victories by each coach at other schools are not included.
Did you know?:
• Norman Lineburg’s 284 wins at Radford are the most at any Timesland school.
• Eight other Timesland coaches topped the 200 mark, including Floyd County’s Winfred Beale (228), who is still active.
The others are Giles’ Steve Ragsdale (255), Blacksburg’s David Crist (239), North Cross’ Jim Muscaro (220), William Byrd’s Jeff Highfill (211), Pulaski County’s Joel Hicks (210), Martinsville’s Taylor Edwards (203) and Salem’s Willis White (201).
• William Fleming’s career record has stood since 1967 when Fred Smith retired with 158 victories.
• Six active coaches besides Beale and Fiddler are their current school’s career leader: Roanoke Catholic’s Bob Price (121), Liberty’s Chris Watts (118), Magna Vista’s Joe Favero (104), Glenvar’s Kevin Clifford (101), Lord Botetourt’s Jamie Harless (79) and Hidden Valley’s Scott Weaver (55).
• The father-son duo of Harry Ragsdale and Steve Ragsdale are the respective leaders at Narrows and Giles.
• Brothers Chuck Poston (56) and Mark Poston (42) are the career leaders at Staunton River and Eastern Montgomery, respectively.
• With 22 victories, Brad Dalton has won more games than any other coach in the 51-year history of Patrick County.
The record book provided other nuggets statewide:
• Bobby Ross, who coached the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl 39 and took Georgia Tech to a share of the 1990 national championship, went 9-11 in two seasons as the head coach at Colonial Heights High School in 1963-64.
• Former VMI, Virginia Tech and VCU basketball coach Chuck Noe went 9-0 in his only season as the football coach at Madison County in 1950.
• Ex-Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Syd Thrift went 7-2 in his only year in 1950 as the football coach at Middlesex High, where the school’s athletic complex bears his name.
• Ferrum College coaching legend Hank Norton was the second head coach at Powhatan High near Richmond, posting a 37-16-3 record from 1954-59.
• Before he turned Lacy Manufacturing in Martinsville into a textile giant, Frank Lacy fashioned a 24-17-2 record in five seasons from 1930-34 as Martinsville’s head coach.
• Vito Ragazzo was a Hall of Fame athlete at William and Mary. He played in the Canadian Football League and was the head coach at VMI for five years. He tried high school coaching for one year at William Byrd in 1955 as the Terriers finished 0-10 .
The lights and the scoreboards are dark for now.