O’Donnell, DeVol from same mold

In 2001, legendary Caldwell High School football coach Mike DeVol crossed the Ohio River and became the head football coach at Parkersburg South.

DeVol inherited a struggling program that never had won a state playoff game in its previous 24 years.

Asked how long it would take the Patriots to start winning, DeVol never hesitated to say, “we will win this year.”

To which the rest of us quietly thought, “Yeah, right.”

That South team not only completed a 9-1 regular season, it then defeated Cabell Midland in the opening round of the state playoffs.

DeVol stayed at South five years, leading the Patriots to 50 wins, two state title appearances and the only football championship in school history in 2003.

It was one of the greatest coaching feats ever performed in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

So, why, you are probably wondering, would I bring that up today.

Because, history has just repeated itself.

Another highly successful Caldwell coach has crossed the mighty Ohio and immediately taken the Mountain State by storm.

Rod O’Donnell had coached state championship track and cross country teams at Caldwell and Hudson high schools in Ohio before heading to the college ranks and doing stints at Kent State and Marshall.

Recently retired, the former Belpre runner returned to his hometown and started looking for a coaching position.

When the Parkersburg High School boys track position became open, he applied and PHS officials couldn’t have found a more qualified individual had they conducted a nationwide search.

Like DeVol, O’Donnell didn’t inherit a program that had enjoyed a great deal of recent success. Despite being the largest or one of the largest high schools in the state (depending upon the year), PHS hadn’t won a boys state track title since 1965.

It’s title drought was approaching 50 years. O’Donnell, like DeVol, didn’t dwell on the past. Rather, he focused like a laser beam on the present.

It took one day for O’Donnell to stamp his brand on the program. “That new track coach knows what he is doing,” was the unanimous opinion of PHS?athletes and fans.

As the spring moved forward, so did the Big Reds. They started winning, at times, dominating.

They claimed the regional championship and entered Saturday’s state meet as the Class AAA favorite.

“What’s going on in Parkersburg,” the rest of the state was asking and trying to figure out.

What was going on was Rod O’Donnell and a strong group of sprinters and hurdlers that were getting better every day.

The biggest had once again become the best.

On Saturday, the Big Reds won the state championship. Had anyone suggested that at the start of the year, they would have been dreaming.

But guys like Mike DeVol and Rod O’Donnell are great reminders that coaching matters.

Hey, Ohio, got any more winners you can send us?

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com