The head coaching tenure of Russell Barnett began in 2007. Coach Barnett became the first head coach for Mountaineer football that had been a former player and assistant coach. Barnett was a starting receiver and free safety on the 1986 team that advanced to the third round of the play-offs. After graduating from high school and college, Barnett returned to work for longtime coach Leland Riddle. Barnett had worked for every coach from Riddle to Coach Charlie Snyder and he had both the knowledge of the Mountaineer program along with other credentials to successfully lead the program.
In this week’sinstallment of ‘side view’, I am going to take a slightly different approach to the teams coached by Coach Russell Barnett. As the record clearly shows, he guided the Mountaineer football program to two of the best years in the school’s history. In addition to that, he unveiled a high powered offense that Mountaineer fans had never seen by previous teams. His 2011 team has more nominees for the ‘Hall of Fame’ & ‘Teams of the Decades’ than any other single team in the history of Mountaineer football. So, there are many accomplishments for his teams.
Barnett’s first team brought the highest powered offense in the school’s history. In eight of their twelve games they scored twenty-eight or more points, with a season high of seventy-two points. On the season, this team outscored their opponents by almost fifty points. A one point loss to Avery in the last game of the year and a three point loss to Murphy in the first game of the year changes the way this team is judged. This was a fine team from the beginning of the year to the end of the year as well. This team had some record setters. Joe Hoilman rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the second year in a row and passed for more than 2,000 yards. Hoilman was named to the All W.N.C. team. Along with Hoilman was Jordan Jones. Jones had 1,000 yards receiving, broke the school record for receiving yards in a season which was previously held by Coach Russell Barnett, and was named to the All W.N.C. team. Other seniors that led the team were Joe Bomar and Wayne Ellis. Ellis anchored the offensive and defensive lines.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons were rebuilding years for Mountaineer football. These two teams worked hard on the practice field. The young men that were a part of Mountaineer football during these two years laid the groundwork for the teams that have followed them most recently. The coaches gave these teams the same attention and detail that every team has been given. These two teams gave all that they had to further build and maintain the pride in the program that has been there for several years. Seniors that led the 2008 team were Austin Burleson, Jake Jarrett, and Jesse Mimkin. Seniors that led the 2009 team were Logan Jensen, Billy Bowmar, and Blake Boone.
Going into the 2010 season there was excitement and optimism in Mountaineer football
once again. There had been some good things happening with the younger Mountaineers, the j.v. teams and their games. Everyone in Mountaineer Country was excited about the 2010 team and very excited following their early season scrimmages. Then the unthinkable happened to six young men on the team. They were in an unfortunate automobile accident. Immediately following the accident, the season seemed to be in jeopardy. As has been the case throughout the history of Mountaineer football, the guys on the team pulled together and put together an amazing year. In fact, it turned out to be one of the finest years in the history of Mountaineer football. The Mountaineers advanced to within one game of the state championship. The Mountaineers lost to eventual state champion, Albermarle. In the play-offs and once they were healthy, they won the first three games with wins over Cherryville, West Wilkes, and Avery. This team was led by senior Shawn Jackson. Jackson gained more than 1,000 rushing and was a steady influence for the offense and played linebacker as well.
As the 2011 season approached, Mountaineer fans eagerly awaited its start. This team was loaded with talent and had plenty of depth. There were proven performers on offense and on defense. This team had a high flying offense but in a much different way than the 2007 team. Neither time nor space will allow me to go into detail the accomplishments of every young man that were seniors on the 2001 team. Every Mountaineer fan remembers Justin ‘Juggy’ Hughes. It is worth mentioning that he set the single season rushing record for the Mountaineers and the career rushing record, too. As a senior, he led the nation in rushing yards for a quarterback in a school that is similar in size to Mitchell High School. The 2011 team had more young men that could contribute at a high level than any of the previous teams in the history of the football program. The 2011 team had a very efficient offensive line and a solid defense that could protect a lead as well. Along with Hughes, seniors that led the team and had accomplishments were; Ryan Sparks, Troy Self, Isaac Edwards, Josh McClellan, Michael Styles, Cody Gardner, Austin Robison, Ben Smith, Matt Vaughn, and Logan McKinney. The 2011 team set the record for most wins in a season as they finished the year with an over-all record of 12-2 and tied for the conference championship.
The 2011 seniors left their mark and dominance at their respective positions. With that being the case, there was a drop off in experience and talent in 2012 and 2013. Once again, these years were years in which younger inexperienced players were forced to contribute sooner than expected. Along the way, injuries at key positions changed the outcome of the seasons and final wins and loss records. During the 2013 season, several sophomores were filling key rolls on both offense and on defense. These young men were learning valuable lessons on the field for the next couple of years. Seniors that led the team in 2012 were Jeremiah Dowell and Daniel Patrella. The 2013 team was led by Michael Vaughn and Corey Blevins.
In two of Coach Barnett’s last four years as head coach, Mountaineer football was very successful. He had guided the team to its best record in schools history and to within one game of playing for the state championship. In 2011, he was named Coach of the Year in W.N.C. These years were marked by wins and lots of fun for everyone in the Mountaineer football family. Mountaineer fans will always be grateful to Coach Barnett for his years of service to the Mountaineer football program.
Next week, we will take a look back at the past three years of Mountaineer football. The last three years, Mountaineer football has been very competitive. Certainly, we celebrate the past success, but eagerly await the future as well. The 2017 season is just days from starting and both the team and fans alike are excited to see what happens this year.