Josh Sims settling in as Magnolia head coach

NEW MARTINSVILLE -For a brief period of time, Josh Sims treated his hiring as the Magnolia football coach like a honeymoon.

Now, it’s time to get to work and maintain the proud tradition the program has established through the years.

“I’m not going to say I wasn’t a little surprised that morning I was hired as the football coach at Magnolia,” Sims said on Monday morning before his team’s scheduled workout. “I was really shocked. It was one of those things where they told me and were expecting a response. But I told them I needed a minute to process this. It was pretty awesome.”

After serving as the Blue Eagles’ quarterback coach last year for head coach Mark Batton, Sims joins new Conotton Valley head coach Levi Nelson as the youngest head coach in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference at the age of 26. Less than a decade ago, Sims played quarterback on Magnolia’s 2005 team which reached the second round of the state playoffs.

Sims graduated from Magnolia in 2006 then spent several years as an invited walk-on for West Virginia University and former Mountaineer coach and New Martinsville native Bill Stewart.

“I was the quarterback, but I also played running back, wide receiver, free safety and linebacker,” Sims said. “One time I found myself on the defensive line, which didn’t turn out well.

“I didn’t realize at the time, but looking back that really helped me learn all the positions. I learned all the keys each position needed to read, and that really helped me as a coach.”

The first order of business for Sims was assembling a coaching staff. Tops on his list was hiring Nathan West as the wide receivers and special teams coach.

“I played with Nathan, and he is one of those guys you want to walk on the field with because he will give you 100 percent and lives to coach the game,” Sims said.

Another one of Sims’ higher priorities was retaining the services of offensive coordinator Dave Chapman. Sims remembers spending time with Chapman in a hotel lobby well past midnight discussing strategy for a playoff game against Moorefield scheduled to kickoff later that day.

“We were still writing up plays and having a good time doing it,” Sims said. “Coach Chapman is kind of a run guy and I’m kind of the pass guy. His experience kind of slows me down when I want to throw it deep. Our personalities work well together.”

Also back on staff is offensive line coach Moke Riggs, who Sims claims to be the best at his craft that he has ever seen. Kent Pilant, who excelled in track and field during his career at Magnolia and played running back for Glenville State College under coach Rich Rodriguez, will be in charge of the secondary. John Smith takes care of the defensive unit. Sims replaces Batton, who completed his 15 years as Magnolia’s head coach with an overall record of 119-56, which included a Class AA state title in 2010.

“Coach Batton says to surround yourself with good people, and I’m very grateful for this coaching staff,” Sims said.

Even though the age difference is minimal with his players, Sims feels he has earned their respect through his presence last year when Magnolia advanced to the Class A semifinals for the second consecutive season.

“At first, I was a little concerned with the age difference, but the kids have responded really well,” Sims said. “Everything has been fine on the respect level. I am a younger guy, so I am a player’s coach.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago I was a player at Magnolia. I try to draw as much as I can on those experiences of being a player so I’m better able to relate with players.”