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Big Reds Sports

History of Big Reds Football

Varsity - 2009 Season
Posted Tuesday, August 04, 2009 by Marty Davis
Note: This information came from the Parhischan, the Quill, the Pilgrim, the Parkersburg News, the Parkersburg Sentinel, and information received from Coach Ross McHenry, and Mr. and Mrs. John Summers.

Many schools have a rich tradition in high school athletics. Parkersburg High School is one of these schools to have such a glory filled past. Their history if filled with football success.

Football began at PHS before the turn of the 20th century. Since this time, PHS has been one of the most respected football programs not only in West Virginia but also in the United States.

History show that players use to go home after school and do chores and then gather around 6:00 PM for football practice. Records show that at one time games were played at Blennerhassett Island, the old YMCA field (located at the northeast corner of 13th St. and Murdoch Ave. on the site now occupied by the First Presbyterian Church, a vacant lot on 16th. Street, and at the present location on the Big Reds campus.

The early teams at PHS were made up not only of PHS students but also from other community people. It was not until 1906 that players were restricted to regularly enrolled students of the high school. The early teams did not always have coaches either. They were organized and coached by the players themselves. The first paid coach at PHS was Harry Bonner in 1907. PHS did not have an official coach in 1910 as student-player Greasy Neale coached the team. The first letters were presented in 1907.

The nickname of "Big Reds" came to PHS in 1915 with the arrival Ralph Jones who came from Dennison College. The Big Reds of Dennison were an athletic power at the time and their colors were red and white. This name has remained with Parkersburg High School.

The Big Reds have been playing on the present site since 1921 although the stadium stands were not there until 1923. The age limit in the early days was 21 as compared to 19 today, but boys were allowed to play after they came back from World War 1 if they enrolled in high school.

PHS played its first night game in 1930 under Coach Ross McHenry at Erie, Pa. The Big Reds won 6-0. The first night game in Big Reds stadium was in 1940 when the Big Reds beat Grantsville 59-0.

Starting in 1937, the Secondary Schools Activities Commission started recognizing champions based upon a poll of the sportswriters. Later, the now existing playoff system began. Prior to 1937, state champions were declared if they were unbeaten in West Virginia competition.

All –State teams were not always selected as they are now. At one time, Harry Stansbury, the Athletic Director at WVU chose the All-State team. He did though gather the advice of the state sportswriters before naming the team. Ross McHenry was the only 3 time All-Stater in the history of PHS until Josh Jenkins joined him in 2007. Parkersburg High School as been state champions 11 times which is more than any other class AAA school in West Virginia. They were champions in 1938, 1940, 1943, 1950. 1958, 1976,1978, 1999, 2001, 2006 and 2007. The state started recognizing champions in 1937. The Big Reds have played in 1,062 games since 1906 and have a record of 754-275-33 for a 73.3% winning percentage.

This successful history has built a tremendous tradition at PHS and made Big Reds football the pride of citizens of Parkersburg, West Virginia.

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