HURLEY, Va. – From zero wins the first year to some big wins the last few years, Greg Tester has seen the lows and highs with the Hurley Rebels football program.
Tester resigned as head coach earlier this week. After finishing 0-10 in 2006, Tester’s Rebels have had a winning record in nine of the last 10 years and reached the playoffs seven times, advancing one round each of the last three.
That’s a high level of success and consistency for the second-smallest football playing school in Virginia.
To achieve that kind of success requires more than a couple of hours’ practice and work for three months a year. Tester, whose teams went 73-57 overall in 12 seasons, has some more personal things that require his time these next few years.
“I want to spend more time enjoying my family and kids,” Tester explained. “I have a 14-year old son, Tyson, who will be a freshman at Wise Central next year and my youngest son, Zane, will be involved in youth sports at Hurley. You only get to enjoy your kids once, because they grow up fast.
“To be successful as a high school coach you have to be involved year-round. I always preach to my players about being ‘all in’ and when it comes time that I cannot be 100 percent involved, it’s not fair to them for me to keep coaching. I think it’s time to be a parent and enjoy my kids from the stands.”
Tester made his mind up a few weeks ago. He gave his players the official word Wednesday morning.
“It was hard telling the kids, but they understand and they support me 100 percent,” he said. “It’s difficult to step away from something you care so much about.”
Tester said he’s proud of the progress the program has made.
“The first season was a lot of growing pains, but we just had to use it as a learning experience and get better,” said Tester, an all-state standout at Hurley, who spent a year as a walk-on at Miami, transferred to UVA-Wise and played two years of Arena football before settling in to a teaching and coaching at his Alma mater.
“You learn a lot about the character of your team. It (0-10) can make you or break you. We as a staff at Hurley wanted to get back to being consistent winners. The last four years have been some great years. Winning our first playoff game in 20 years was pretty exciting. Seeing all the hard work come together in four or five great seasons and going undefeated was special.”
Hurley had just the second undefeated regular season in school history in 2016, when the Rebels went 11-1 and had the highest-scoring team in the state, all classifications.
“It was great for the school and the community. Football brings a community together, especially when you can have a season like we did (in 2016), or even the last several years,” Tester added. “The enrollment at Hurley is always a challenge and we’re not always blessed with numbers.
“I think that speaks volumes of what type of kids we have at Hurley. They have a blue collar mentality. The 2016 players were not only talented, but they had a great work ethic. They had a desire to win and they had a passion for the game. They lived and breathed football. To see the kids and the community enjoying the ride and getting excited about football was special. I have a lot of proud moments and memories and I just can’t specify one.”
There was a moment after the 9-3 team in 2015 finished the season at the heavily-favored and eventual state champion Galax.
“I guess the moment that sticks out to me the most was a loss in the 2015 playoffs against Galax,” Tester admitted. “I knew how good Galax was that year. They have one of the best coaches and best programs in Southwest Virginia. I think we lost 28-14 or something like that, but the kids battled and played their hearts out.
“I told the team after the game that they just went toe to toe with the state champions. I knew they would win it all that year. I thought that was a defining moment, even though it was a loss. It let us know how far we had come as a program. Starting out 0-10 and then going 10-0 was special. It was an awesome experience. I was fortunate to be blessed with great kids, great assistant coaches, and a great community.”
Don’t rule out a return to the sidelines for Tester, who’s been in the game as a player or coach most of his life.
“I’m passionate about the game,” Tester said. “I hope I have the opportunity to coach again. However, as of now, I want to enjoy my family and watch my kids from the stands.”