Former coaches shocked by decline of two powerhouse programs
Just 15 years ago, Park View High School in Sterling and Manassas Park High School were two of the top football programs in Virginia. This season neither will field a varsity football team.
Park View announced in early August that it did not have enough players to field a team, and just a little over a week later Manassas Park made the same announcement.
Charlie Pierce coached Park View to the Group AA state championship game in 2000. Pierce, who retired from coaching before last season, said it was disappointing to hear the former powerhouse program wouldn’t field a varsity team this season.
Pierce left Park View in 2005 to coach at another Loudoun County school — Briar Woods, where he coached for 12 years and led the team to three state titles. Pierce said they played Park View regularly for many years, and it was hard to see how far the Patriots had fallen.
“The last time we played Park View was 2013 or 14, because it was still part of our district, and you could see it big time then,” Pierce said in a phone interview. “And being on the other side, last time I played Park View I was on the visitors’ side, and just seeing what decline had taken place – it was heartfelt.”
Pierce said that as recently as 2010 Park View advanced to the playoffs, where it lost to his Briar Woods squad.
Jeff Lloyd coached Manassas Park to a Group A state championship in 2004. The current Monticello head football coach said he was as surprised as anyone when he heard that the Cougars weren’t fielding a varsity team this year.
“Manassas Park not fielding a team is really tough on me, being that I was there for 16 years as a teacher and a coach and 10 years as a head football coach,” Lloyd said. “I won a state championship there and I lost a state championship there and played in one other state semifinal game. For them not to field a team is just unbelievable.”
Pierce and Lloyd aren’t the only ones who were shocked by Park View and Manassas Park not having a team.
Warren County Athletic Director Ed Dike said he was surprised to hear that two strong programs could go downhill so quickly.
“That’s a little disheartening,” Dike said. “And (Manassas Park) had a state championship team not too awful long ago, and so did Park View. How does that happen?”
According to the Virginia High School League’s most recent average daily membership enrollment numbers, Park View has 1,429 students and Manassas Park has 1,099.
Pierce and Lloyd said that they believed most of the usual reasons for the decline in football led to Park View and Manassas Park’s downfall.
One of the other factors for Park View is the constant growth of Loudoun County as a whole. The county has 14 high schools with two more to open in the next two years.
“When you keep building schools and you keep dividing communities and things like, that you’re cutting the potential for those kids that are going to play football,” Pierce said. “And then you throw in the news and what’s the trickle-down effect from the concussion stuff and the CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). So if you kind of cut the boundaries and the amount of players that are going to play there are cut down, to begin with, and then you throw in the CTE stuff that’s affecting youth football and kids coming up. Then that’s going to lead for less players coming out for football.”
Lloyd said he has stayed in touch with Manassas Park head coach Mike Kelly, who was the junior varsity coach when Lloyd was the head coach of the Cougars. Lloyd said that Kelly had reached out to him over the summer and wanted to get advice on how to improve Manassas Park’s program, but the two weren’t able to meet up. Lloyd said he didn’t realize the program was in such dire straits.
At both Park View and Manassas Park, the demographics have changed over the years and soccer has become a bigger sport with both schools having a higher percentage of Hispanic students.
Lloyd left Manassas Park in 2007 to become head coach at Kettle Run and said even then you could see things starting to shift a little bit.
“The tide was starting to turn when I left,” Lloyd said. “I don’t know what the percentage is now (of Hispanic students), but you could see the demographics change there very quickly. It’s nothing against those kids, but they don’t play football — not American football. I always thought that once families assimilated into American culture that the younger siblings would pick up football because it’s America’s game, but it doesn’t seem like that has happened.”
Lloyd said that Monticello’s football program is in good shape and the school is still getting good numbers out for the team. He said they have 75 kids between the varsity and junior varsity. Pierce said that even at Briar Woods they have taken a hit over the years.
Pierce said that in 2013 when they were three-time defending state champions and led by current Penn State University quarterback Trace McSorley, they had 150 kids try out for the varsity, junior varsity, and freshman teams. He said they had to cut 30 kids because they only had 120 helmets. He said now they have around 85-90 between the three programs.
Park View and Manassas Park aren’t the only schools to drop football season this year in Virginia. Virginia High School League Executive Director Billy Haun said that Charles City has also canceled its season and Bruton High School has decided to only play five games this season. Charles City also canceled its volleyball season.
Pierce said that he’s missing coaching and that he was disheartened last week when he attended a high school football game.
“I’m trying not to stay depressed,” Pierce said.“I went to watch a game this past Friday and I was just watching and two other teams that I wasn’t involved with or anything like that and I was just sad to see the numbers or lack thereof, I should say.”