Mills era ends at Jefferson
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – When Richard Mills took over as head football coach at Jefferson High School in 2004, the Cougars had zero success in the postseason.
That changed quickly.
Within two years, Mills led Jefferson to its first two postseason victories.
After that, for myriad reasons, most notably the opening of Washington, the success became harder to duplicate.
Mills’ resignation as head coach at Jefferson came officially Monday as the Jefferson County School Board voted to accept it.
“I imagine, after 35 years, I will miss it,” Mills said Tuesday.
Mills declined to get into specifics for why he resigned, other than to say, “the time was right.”
He did say he will leave with fond memories of his tenure, especially the early years.
In his first season, 2004, the Cougars went 7-3 in the regular season and beat Buckhannon-Upshur in the first round of the playoffs, the first football playoff win in Jefferson history.
They lost the following week to Martinsburg, but not without a fight, falling 35-34. Martinsburg went to play in the Class AAA state championship game.
The success of that first season led to an even bigger 2005.
The Cougars ran the regular-season table, going 10-0 and beating Fairmont Senior in the first round of the playoffs.
The season ended the following week with a loss to University.
“I’m proud of the fact that we were able to get our first playoff win in that first year and then come back with an undefeated season the second year and another playoff win,” Mills said.
After that, with the opening of rival Washington, the Cougars fell on hard times.
“I enjoyed it all,” Mills said. “It’s been a struggle the last couple years, and we weren’t able to get it back up to where it was. Maybe the next (coach) will be able to do that.”
Mills started his coaching career at Shepherdstown Junior High – and now Middle School – where he was a coach for 26 years.
Jefferson officials will hold a meeting today to discuss how they will approach filling the vacancy, athletic director John Brown said.