PHS can reach a milestone

In 1900, Parkersburg High School played its first football game, beating the Parkersburg Athletic Club Juniors, 10-5.

Little did anybody know then what they started.

What they started was a football program that has won 71 percent of its games.

A program that can claim 16 state championships, more than any other Mountain State school.

The Big Reds have made a lot of history over the years. The members of this year’s team can add to the legacy on Friday night when PHS visits Warren for the 2014 season opener.

Parkersburg enters the game with an overall record of 799 wins, 317 losses and 39 ties. The Big Reds’ next victory will be the 800th in school history.

It will make PHS the eighth school in America to reach that milestone. Incidentally, the No. 1 team on the all-time list is the Valdosta High School Bulldogs from Georgia with a record of 882-213-34. Valdosta, which played its first football game in 1913, is the city that nosed out Parkersburg in ESPN’s TitleTown USA competition.

The Big Reds have had 11 undefeated seasons, the most recent the 14-0 state championship team in 2006 coached by Bernie Buttrey, who earned the West Virginia High School Coach of the Year Award that season. Before that, it was the 1999 Big Reds who went 14-0 under the leadership of Marshall Burdette, who also won the state’s most prestigious high school sports award.

Other undefeated teams included going 12-0 under coach Ben Schwartzwalder in 1940; 1950’s 11-0 squad coached by Jimmy Scott; 10-0 teams in 1911 (B.B. Cooley), 1927 (Maurice Carlson), 1938 (Schwartzwalder), 1941 (10-0-1 under Russ Pfalzgraf) and 1958 (10-0-1 under Russ Parsons).

Both the 1921 team coached by Harold Thomas and Jimmy Scott’s 1943 team each went 9-0.

Parkersburg has won 42 state playoff games, losing 25.

Buddy James, who coached the Big Reds from 1968 to 1990, is by the far the winningest coach in school history with 178 victories. His long-time assistant and successor, Burdette, is second with 90 wins from 1991 to 2001.

Individually, the Big Reds have produced 176 first-team all-state players with Ross McHenry (1920, 1921, 1922) and Josh Jenkins (2005, 2006 and 2007) the only players to be selected three times. Both went on to star at West Virginia University. McHenry returned to Parkersburg and served as head coach of the Big Reds.

Big Reds football is a Parkersburg tradition, one that is about to enter its 115th year. Imagine the changes and advances the world has seen since that time, including such revolutionary changes as airplanes, television, computers and cell phones. Of course, those of us who love our football would claim-perhaps tongue-in-cheek-that those all pale in comparison to the creation of the forward pass.

Contact Dave Poe at