By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Donnie Jackson came back for a second stint as football coach at James Monroe High School.
There won’t be a third.
“I had a great coaching career,” Jackson said. “I had lots and lots of good players. I made a ton of friends, I will miss that and my assistant coaches. I just felt like it was time I moved on.”
Jackson’s second tenure as head coach of the Mavericks has come to an end after five seasons, having recently made the decision to step aside from a position that has been held by just two men since the school was created in 1994.
“I had a lot of reasons, some of which I don’t want to talk about,” Jackson said. “I was kind of getting old in the tooth. I had several reasons, but it had nothing to do with the players.
“They will have a lot of good players back. We played some sophomores and even some freshmen last year. It didn’t have anything to do with that, there were just some personal reasons.”
Jackson has actually served two stints as football coach at two schools in Monroe County, including Peterstown from 1979-83 and 1988-93, winning the Class A state championship and finishing 14-0 in 1991.
That was followed from 1994-2002 at James Monroe when the school was created through the consolidation of Peterstown and Union high schools.
He stepped aside for medical reasons until 2008 when he returned for five more seasons after then-coach David Witt resigned.
Jackson had six undefeated regular season records, and the 26-21 state championship game win over Matewan in 1991, led by future West Virginia University quarterback Chad Johnston.
“I have had so many memories, had a lot of success and some good assistant coaches and some great players,” Jackson said. “I just had some great teams, I had some good players and some real good memories of those years.”
Jackson got his start as a head coach at Peterstown in 1979, leading the Pirates to an 10-2 record. He eventually posted 34-20-1 mark in five seasons, falling to Sistersville 28-3 in the Class A state championship game in 1981.
He returned to the sidelines at Peterstown in 1988, and had a remarkable six-year record of 62-13, including three undefeated regular seasons, capped off with the state title in 1991.
Two years later, Peterstown and Union high schools were combined into one to create James Monroe in Lindside, and Jackson was the choice to serve as football coach for the Mavericks.
He did it for nine years, recording three more undefeated regular seasons, reaching the Class AA state semifinals in 1993, and the quarterfinals in 1999 and ‘02.
Jackson stepped aside in 2002, and then returned in 2008, one season after the Witt-coached Mavericks advanced to the Class AA state championship game, falling to Bluefield 20-12.
He didn’t lose the old magic, as Jackson led James Monroe to a 9-4 record, falling to Magnolia 13-7, finishing a game short of another trip to Wheeling.
“I came back and we really had a great season. We ended up playing in the final four,” Jackson said. “We had very few returning players from the year before so that was a real good experience for us.
“That was a good year for us. We lost a few games early in the season, but we came on really strong at the end.”
James Monroe lost three games early that season, and were sitting at 6-3, but the Mavericks won three in a row and narrowly missed playing for another state title.
“We came really close to going back to the state championship game,” Jackson said. “We started out really slow, but we came along at the end and played really well.
“We upset Chapmanville and then upset Weir, and I think they were rated second in the state at that time. We came real close to getting Magnolia. We had a really good run there.
“That was the last year we had a lot of success up there.”
James Monroe went 8-3 the following season, but have missed the playoffs in the last three years, including a pair of consecutive 2-8 campaigns.
“We played a tremendously tough schedule and we were just down a little bit,” Jackson said. “Every school runs through that some time down the road, but they have got some good players coming.
“Somebody will step into a pretty good situation there.”
Jackson finished with an unofficial record of 95-59 at James Monroe, and a 191-92-1 mark at both schools.
He started his career in small school Class A football, and then made the move to Class AA with the creation of James Monroe.
“I miss coaching ‘A’ ball. I had a great relationship with a lot of guys who are still coaching, like Eddie Souk (now at Oak Hill), Frank Spangler (retired from Fayetteville) and Larry McClintic (now at Meadow Bridge),” Jackson said. “That was really special coaching ‘A’ football.
“It was a little more personal with the coaches and then we moved to ‘AA’ and we had some good rivalries there with Bluefield, we played Princeton forever and Greenbrier East.
“We had pretty good success with those guys in the past, but that was a little different level of football.”
Among the rivalries that Jackson had a bittersweet relationship with was Bluefield, which has been a tough team for just about anyone to tame.
“I really enjoyed Bluefield,” Jackson said. “We didn’t have a lot of luck with them, we didn’t beat them much, but they were a class act and I will miss playing them.”
Jackson has ruled out another return to the sidelines, but his contributions to football will, no doubt, never be forgotten by him or the avid supporters of James Monroe football, who filled the seats on Friday nights in the fall.
“We have always had good fan support,” Jackson said. “Football has always been really big in Monroe County for a long time.
“It was a good ride for me, a good party.”
—Contact Brian Woodson at email@example.com