Top 10 Closed-School Football Programs in West Virginia History

One of the most inviting traits of West Virginia prep football is the unique history that bounds communities together over hundreds of years. The sport was a small reflection on how close-knit towns were as well as how important it was to beat the town over. For some modern teams, your own teammate might have been your biggest rival twenty years ago. A neighborhood’s name might have been feared for a decade a long time ago but now only has a middle school continuing its legacy. To some, the history of West Virginia high school football might seem boring or unimportant. However, if you really look into how everything developed, you might see a little of yourself in it.

What is the reason for consolidation? The majority of the time its pretty simple: money and education standards. Schools prior to 1930’s were very independent and often small neighborhood-based units. At this time, there were actually around 5,000 total schools (40 being high schools). Through the Great Depression and World War Two saw intense educational reform that sought to combine schools into an organized 55-county system. The total schools decreased by 50% while the population inversely doubled. Economic downturn in areas during the 1950’s and 1960’s caused increased consolidation as well. The introduction of highways and superior bus systems also pushed those backwoods-type schools to close.

Through the 1980’s, more legislation was passed demanding shared standards and monetary value for all schools. This forced smaller schools with high fees and difficult standards to once again consolidate. Certain political officials also pushed heavily for the consolidation of schools speeding up construction and forcing community’s hands. By 2000, under 1000 total schools remained. Consolidation has continued to this point with the idea being they can offer a better education to the students for a more efficient cost. Many critique whether the money saved is quite as much as expected and if it makes up for what consolidation can do to certain communities.

So, how does this tie into football? Even schools today face extinction- most notably Fayetteville as well the potential swallowing of Valley (Fayette), Meadow Bridge, and Richwood, among others. Champions have been named for over 100 years. If you’re a fan of high school history, you don’t have to go back far into the champions to begin seeing schools that do not exist anymore. Some are obvious in what they became while others are not so straightforward. Some of these programs housed the greatest athletes and coaches we have produced as a state but now that legend almost has been lost in the lore itself. We thought it would be cool to stack up the top legendary programs against each other to see how, by the end of it all, they measure up.

We took several things into account when rankings these programs. First, and of course, is titles. To be fair to smaller schools, we are not going to prize AAA titles over A titles in this case. Secondly, we looked at winning percentage. How good were these teams year-in and year-out? Not just for a successful stint. Thirdly, we looked at major award winners. How many big-time players from these schools have branded one of the big-three (Kennedy, Hunt, Huff) awards? This is partly unfair since the inception of some of these awards came late in the school’s history so we take that into account. Finally, we did take into consideration how long the school was open. This one was not looked at as deeply but we thought it should be noted how much some programs accomplished in their short history. Without further ado, our Top 10 Closed-School Football Programs in West Virginia History!

In part with this, we have put together a state history page on the website that includes a lot of our awards, state awards, state records, and title history. Some of it we are still gathering but check it out:


Ansted (Midland Trail) 1924-1977
Mannington (North Marion) 1905-1978
Mount Hope (Oak Hill) 1923-2011
Vinson (Spring Valley) 1934-1998

*dates listed are the beginning and end of the football program*

TIE – #10 Wheeling

Wheeling High Main Stairwell

Mascot: Wildcats
Colors: Blue/Yellow
Class: AAA
5 (1908, 1913, 1916, 1922, 1925)
Winning Percentage:
Award Winners:
Modern-Day School:
Wheeling Park
Years Active:
78 (1898-1976)

The original Wheeling High School might surprise some but like the other #10 on the list, we think deserves some recognition for their role in the earliest years of the sport in West Virginia. Many of their titles came via popular vote but without a doubt, during the first several decades of the sport they were considered one of the best. One of the more interesting turns for them was their 1913 championship-voted season followed by a devastating school fire the following year. In two years, under head coach Harold Brooks, they were able to reclaim that title in 1916 during an undefeated run that included wins over Charleston, Linsly, Huntington, and a tie with Parkersburg. Their last voted-title came in 1925 under coach John McKnight. For the next fifty years, championships would allude them despite a strong winning percentage. By the time the playoff system began forming, the school was already planned to consolidate to form Wheeling Park from Triadelphia, Warwood, and West Liberty in 1976. In our opinion, despite their success being so lore-based and long ago, we see their role as essential in the foundation of the sport.

TIE – #10 Huntington

Huntington vs Huntington East (1960)

Mascot: Pony Express
Colors: Red/Blue
Class: AAA
8 (1909, 1912, 1917, 1922, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934)
Winning Percentage:
Award Winners:
Modern-Day School:
Years Active:
95 (1901-1996)

Also similar to the Wheeling Wildcats was the Huntington Pony Express. Even more prolific in their early days, they were acclaimed to have eight total championships granted under AE Studdard and W. Hol Slutz between 1909 and 1934. The 1934 was particular impressive with dominant wins over Charleston, Parkersburg, Wayne, and Ceredo-Kenova. Unlike Wheeling, Huntington had some more title close calls outside the early days including runner-up appearances in 1964 and 1966. Also, in 1961 they had their one lone award winner when runningback Paul Allen took home the Kennedy trophy. Beyond that, Huntington was not a wildly successful program up towards their consolidation. Due to a want for an upgraded facility, Huntington and Huntington East combined to make the current high school we know today. However, for now, we pay ode to the Pony Express that helped cement football for us in West Virginia.

#9 Matewan

Head Coach Yogi Kinder

Mascot: Tigers
Colors: Green/Gold/White
Class: A
Titles: 1 (1993)
Winning Percentage: 60%
Award Winners: 2
Modern-Day School: Mingo Central
Years Active: 89 (1922-2011)

We are now moving into successful teams outside the earliest days of the sport. Matewan will forever hold a place in the hearts of West Virginia football fans. The small but well-known town was always a talented program but it was the rise under legendary coach Yogi Kinder that brought them to prominence. In 1987, 1991, and 1992, the Tigers fell heartbreakingly short in the title game. However, in 1993 they finally got over the hump to win their first and only title in school history. Their two awards winners were both linemen Sidney Green in 1963 and Richard Allara in 1995. In 2006, under Kinder, Matewan was in the national spotlight after Paul McCoy broke national rushing records in a questionable blowout game. Those records still stand. In 2011, due to declining enrollment, they consolidated with Williamson, Gilbert, and Burch. Kinder was hired as head coach and after several successful years won the 2016 AA State Championship in his last season.

#8 Gary

AA State Champions (1970)

Mascot: Coaldiggers
Colors: Black/Red
Class: AA
Titles: 2 (1966, 1970)
Winning Percentage: 59%
Award Winners: 0
Modern-Day School: Mount View
Years Active: 56 (1922-1978)

The Gary Coaldiggers were a program based off an old-mine strip in the McDowell County mountains. Despite their team only being around for 56 seasons, they accomplished a good amount. After losing in the 1951 title game, fifteen years later Sid Cure would lead them to their first championship ever. In 1970, Cure would have the best team in the school history as they won again with zero losses and an extreme scoring difference of 33 to 4 (per game average). Eight years later, Gary High School ceased to exist. Due to different reasons including population and school structures, they merged with Welch and Northfolk to form Mount View in 1978. Mount View had good success in the AAA class and produced even NFL players. The presence of Gary Coaldigger players still goes on today.

#7 DuPont

Randy Moss (1994)

Mascot: Panthers
Colors: Navy/Gold
Class: AAA
Titles: 2 (1992, 1993)
Winning Percentage: 57%
Award Winners: 5
Modern-Day School: Riverside
Years Active: 68 (1931-1999)

DuPont is one of the most recognizable names the state has to offer in terms of close-schools. Before their infamous 1990’s run, the Panthers appeared in three AAA title games in 1972, 1976, and 1978. During these years they had a two-time Kennedy Award winning QB in Danny Williams in ’72 and ’73 and a Hunt Award winner in Denny Ballard in ’78. However, under head coach Dick Whitman, in 1992 and 1993, DuPont claimed their first and only titles. Also, on these teams were Kennedy Award winner Randy Moss and the first-ever Huff Award winner Bobby Howard. They made it to the title game one more time in 1998 but lost. In its last several decades, DuPont was as good as anyone and produced some of the best talent in state history. By 1999, they were pushed to consolidate with nearby rival East Bank to form Riverside. Their success has yet to be seen again in the area.

#6 Monongah

Nick Saban and Roman Prezioso (1966)

Mascot: Black/Red
Colors: Lions
Class: A
Titles: 5 (1952, 1955, 1968, 1969, 1973)
Winning Percentage: 59%
Award Winners: 1
Modern-Day School: North Marion
Years Active: 57 (1922-1979)

Many might question how high Monongah falls on this list. We, however, think they earned a #6 ranking. From the 1950’s to the school’s closing, the Lions were one of the fiercest A programs around. In the ’50’s they won two titles with one runnerup finish under Jim Feltz. By the late 1960’s, they had a quarterback by the name of Nick Saban and a runningback by name of Kerry Marbury. Marbury would win the Kennedy in 1969 after they finished their second straight title run. In 1972, coach Mike Argbarite failed to stop Ansted’s record-breaking winstreak in the title game but followed it up in 1973 with the school’s final championship run. Several years later, they were joined with Barrackville, Mannington, Farmington, and Fairview to create a more efficient superpower school known as North Marion. The Huskies would appear in the next three AAA title games, winning two, with a player named Rich Rodriguez.

#5 East Bank

Wayne Burnette (1989)

Mascot: Pioneers
Colors: Blue/White
Class: AAA/AA
Titles: 7 (1964, 1971, 1973, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1996)
Winning Percentage: 66%
Award Winners: 0
Modern-Day School: Riverside
Years Active: 85 (1914-1999)

East Bank, plainly, was a powerhouse program for nearly 40 years. Their winning percentage of 66% is second all-time on this list and that is over 85 seasons! The Pioneers were a runnerup in the first season of the modern-day classification (1958). Roy Williams would lead them to their first AAA title six seasons later in an undefeated run. Despite losing the first game, Don Arthur’s 1971 squad would run the table for another title. Following an unusual down 1972 season, Arthur’s 1973 squad was one of the greatest teams in state history with their impeccable defense. As their population dropped off, they were not in the title race again until they bumped down to AA. From there on in 1989, they went on a legendary run under Ralph Hensley that resulted in four championships in eight years. The Pioneers would close their doors to join with DuPont to make Riverside in 1999. Few other programs were in the championship race from beginning to end like East Bank.

#4 Sistersville

Sistersville Tigers (1978)

Mascot: Tigers
Colors: Black/Orange
Class: A
Titles: 7 (1953, 1964, 1980, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986)
Winning Percentage: 57%
Award Winners: 3
Modern-Day School: Tyler Consolidated
Years Active: 91 (1902-1993)

Sistersville also carries a legacy of longtime excellence. Despite having a program for fifty years, they didn’t see large success until the first set of classifications. This granted them their first title in 1953. They would replicate this again in 1964. However, it was under Lou Nocida in the 1980’s that Sistersville became a mythical school. From 1980 to 1986, they won five Class A Championships. Also, they had one Hunt Award winner, Brian Swisher, and two Kennedy Award winners, Joel Wilson and Jeff Swisher. To accomplish this at a small school was incredible and it is unlikely we will see it again. Most famously, their undefeated 1981 team averaged a score of 40-2 across the entire season. Several seasons later due to several pending reasons, they joined with Tyler County to create Tyler Consolidated. The level of success has yet to be even neared.

#3 Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson vs Charleston (1959)

Mascot: Generals
Colors: Red/Grey
Class: AAA
Titles: 3 (1947, 1974, 1986)
Winning Percentage: 65%
Award Winners: 4
Modern-Day School: Capital
Years Active: 49 (1940-1989)

In 1940, Stonewall Jackson was created due to the growing population of the Charleston area. Seven years from its inception, it claimed title #1. Their 65% winning percentage was a mainstay as they stayed a great program every decade. They had two Kennedy Awards during this stint in 1949 with RB Hoppy Shores and in 1952 with QB Don Griffith. After a loss in 1967, in 1974 Stonewall Jackson won again under coach Bill Jarrett. In their final years, coach Moe Townson would lead them to a 1986 title reign with Hunt Award winner Mark Moore. As many know, two years later they would merge with the 1988 champs and longtime rival Charleston to form a superpower program in Capital. The 1989 team is regarded as the greatest team in state history. They have won three titles since. The Generals make it so high on this list because how much they accomplished in the shortest school history on the list. They had the second-most award winners and third highest winning percentage in the largest class and arguably hardest area.

#2 Ceredo-Kenova

A State Championship Game (1994)

Mascot: Wonders
Colors: Green/White
Class: AA/A
Titles: 12 (1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1994)
Winning Percentage: 66%
Award Winners: 1
Modern-Day School: Spring Valley
Years Active: 77 (1921-1998)

Only two schools have more championships than Ceredo-Kenova and the school has been closed for 25 years. Ironically, in 1963, a season where they started off 0-2, began a reign that never quite ended. They won their first title under Carl Ward that year and by 1965, with Hunt Award winner Dave Lucas, the Wonders had one of the greatest AA season ever. Leading to 1983, the Wonders had 11 AA title wins with three runnerups. As with other schools on the list, a population decrease had them with a lack of success until they dropped to Single A. In 1994, the Ceredo-Kenova Wonders had one of the most dominant seasons in West Virginia football history with a team littered with next level talent that had Don Money get title #12 with a 44-0 win in the title game. Within four years, they combined with Vinson and Buffalo Wayne to create a AAA Spring Valley program. The Timberwolves, of course, have been runnerups for three consecutive years now.

#1 Charleston

AAA State Champions (1970)

Mascot: Mountain Lions
Colors: Blue/Old Gold
Class: AAA
Titles: 9 (1920, 1922, 1924, 1933, 1939, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1988)
Winning Percentage: 69%
Award Winners: 4
Modern-Day School: Capital
Years Active: 88 (1901-1989)

Finally, the #1 closed school football program of all time is the Charleston Mountain Lions. No surprise that the state capital hosts some incredible talent and history. In every measurable, Charleston was at or near the top. They won championships in five different decades. They had one of the earliest Kennedy Awards winners in 1954 with RB Noel Whipkey and the third-ever Hunt Award winner in 1961 with John McNabb. Under Frank Vincent, during 1968 through 1970, the Mountain Lions earned a three-peat in AAA titles as well as Kennedy winner Rick Hurt at QB and Hunt Award winner Rick Katzaeff. Their final season in 1988 was capped off with one of the greatest teams in state history in their ninth championship. Of course, they merged with Stonewall Jackson to make Capital and the rest is history. Nine title, four awards, and winning almost 70% of their games from 1901-1989 is an insane feat. Though the school no longer exists, their legacy and contributions will always be felt.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.