CHAPMANVILLE — George Barker has been around football for a long time.
He’s seen many hot summer days in August turn to cool, crisp evenings October and November.
Barker, though, is hanging up his headsets for good.
Barker, the Chapmanville Regional High School football coach the last 12 years and a member of the Chapmanville Athletic Hall of Fame, announced his resignation on Monday.
Barker, who is also the CRHS Athletics Director, had said he thought about stepping down the last three years. He’s coached the Tigers in his second stint since 2004 following the resignation of former coach Ronnie Ooten.
Barker came to his alma mater Chapmanville from Logan High School where he had coached the Wildcats from the late 1990s to 2003 when he stepped down. He had previously coached football at Chapmanville in the 1980s and is the son of the late Fletcher “Shag” Barker, himself a former football coach at Chapmanville and also a member of the Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been trying to do it for three years, if that is any indication of how hard the decision was,” Barker told Logan radio station WVOW on Monday. “I’ve always felt like I got paid for having fun and it was never a job. I think it is time for me to step down and put some new blood and a new direction for the program. I would just like to see our success continue.”
Barker said he’s always loved football.
At Chapmanville, he helped turn an up-and-down grid program into a consistent winner.
Beginning with Chapmanville’s winning season in 2006, the Tigers went on to advance to the Class AA playoffs in 2007. It was the Tigers’ first playoff bid since 1999 under Ooten.
Chapmanville then reeled off five straight playoff berths.
The Tigers’ zenith was in 2011 when Chapmanville advanced all the way to the Class AA state semifinals before a 33-13 loss at Point Pleasant knocked the Tigers out and prevented CRHS from making it to the Wheeling Super Six state championships.
Barker and the Tigers made a return to the playoffs this past season as Chapmanville went 7-4 with a 42-14 loss to Robert C. Byrd at Chapmanville’s Tiger Stadium.
It was the first home playoff game for the Tigers since 2008 when Chapmanville lost 33-0 at home to James Monroe.
All of Barker’s other playoff wins came on the road.
Under Barker, the Chapmanville football program saw a lot of changes and growth.
In 2007, the Tigers joined the Cardinal Conference and Chapmanville Regional High School — a quasi consolidation of the old Chapmanville and Harts high schools (Harts students had the option of attending CRHS or the new Lincoln County High School in Hamlin) — opened its doors.
Last season, Chapmanville, like county brethren Logan and Man high schools, all began new football eras with the installation of Field Turf at all three county stadiums as part of a $2.5 joint project between the Logan County Commission and the Logan County School Board.
“It (football) is the ultimate team sport. Of all the sports I played or coached or participated in, it is the ultimate team sport,” Barker told WVOW. “You have kids that never touch the ball, they never get the ball and get to do something with it, but yet they are out there and they work hard to help the team succeed. Anybody and everybody can find a place to play. All sizes, all speeds, anyone can find a place to play. All they have to do is go out there with enough heart and desire to find a way to get on the field.”’
The 2015 season — Barker’s last — ended up being an exciting one for the Tigers. Chapmanville started off 7-0 with a dramatic 35-28 win at county rival Man as senior Alex Berry tossed a 35-yard bomb for a touchdown to Noah Dingess with only 17 seconds left, breaking a 28-all tie.
Barker talked about the excitement of the coming season back in August during a preseason interview with The Logan Banner.
“I love the excitement of the new year. It’s a new beginning,” Barker said. “For the seniors, the ones that have played, are excited to get another opportunity. Some of those guys who have been on the second team, now this is their chance to be first-teamers. There’s some young kids coming up from middle school who are gifted athletes and now they are on the high school team. This is an exciting time.”
After six straight winning seasons from 2006-11 and five playoff appearances, Chapmanville Regional dipped to 4-6, 5-5 and 4-6 records from 2012-14 before last season’s huge turnaround.
The Tigers had many top performers.
Chapmanville wide receiver Jacob Dingess was named Class AA All-State Second Team. He had 73 catches for 1,157 yards and 15 TDs this season for CRHS.
Chapmanville’s Tanner Dillon was the second-team punter. He averaged around 35 yards per kick and was 46-for-50 in extra points and 3-for-4 in field goal attempts.
The Tigers’ Alex Berry and Ricky Combs were named special honorable mention. Evan Willis was honorable mention all-state.
Berry, the CRHS senior quarterback, completed 165-of-251 passes this season for 2,345 yards with 31 TDs and only eight interceptions.
Barker said he was thrilled to see the Field Turf roll into Tiger Stadium in August. And with the playoff berth it ended up being a great way to go out.
“It tickles me to death. I never really thought that I would see this in Logan County,” Barker said of the turf. “It makes me feel proud about the area of where I’m from.”
Hosting the playoff game against RCB was another big moment in Chapmanville football history.
“In the history of our football program we’ve only had two playoff games in town in Chapmanville and this is the second one,” Barker said. “That’s a pretty big accomplishment on their part, espcially since going into the season nobody was giving them any credit. They earned it and they earned their way there.”
After graduating from Chapmanville High School, Barker played his college ball at West Virginia State.
His first coaching job was as an assistant at Scott High School in 1974. Assistant jobs at Chapmanville, Logan Junior High and Logan High School followed before he was the head coach at LHS from 1999-2003 after former coach Corky Griffith’s exit.
Barker said he will remain as the CRHS Athletics Director.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).