Farewell: Coach Mannion moves on

May 2017 Posted in Community, School, Sports
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John Mannion had a 57-20 record as Silverton’s football coach and three of his teams made the state Class 5A semifinals. Ted Miller

By James Day

Flash back to Sept., 28, 2012. The Silverton High football team, in its third year under coach John Mannion, led powerful West Albany, 28-21 with just a few minutes left.

West Albany was the gold standard in the Mid-Willamette Conference, making it to the state finals three consecutive years, from 2006 to 2008.

The Foxes had the ball and needed just one good drive to close it out. Then, Matthew Willis, perhaps the Foxes’ best offensive lineman, injured his ankle and had to come off the field. Mannion called up untested sophomore Cody Gubbels and told him he was going in. But before Gubbels could take the field, another Foxes backup lineman, senior Carlos Rodriguez, grabbed Gubbels by the arm and told him “You’ve got this! We’re going to win this game!”

The Foxes held on to win, later flattened West Albany 35-6 in the playoffs and advanced to the Class 5A semifinals. It was the start of a remarkable three-year run in which Mannion’s team was 33-4 and made the state semifinals three consecutive years, with all four losses coming against the eventual state champion.

Mannion, 49, is leaving the Foxes to take over the football program at Mountainside, a new high school in Beaverton.

In a sometimes emotional exit interview with Our Town he cited that West Albany game as one of his best memories because it showed how everyone bought into the program.  And without that buy-in you aren’t going to be successful.

Mannion was successful, to be sure, going 57-20 in his seven years, appearing in the playoffs in all but his first season.

“These were fun guys to coach,” Mannion said. “They worked hard and did it the right way.”

A California native, he coached in the San Francisco Bay Area at Milpitas High and Foothill of Pleasanton before taking the Silverton job.

“I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish,” he said. “It was a team effort all the way. I’m grateful for the players I was able to coach. They really embodied what I love about football. They were humble, hard workers and good teammates. I feel lucky to have spent the last seven years here.”

Mannion also praised the strong community support he received, noting a 2011 playoff game 275 miles away in Ashland in which the Foxes had more fans in the stands than the home team.

“That type of support was great. I’m very grateful to the community for supporting the program and supporting me personally. There were a lot of people behind the scenes that were strong advocates for me and my program.”

The coaching staff was remarkably stable, with Mike Fessler, Craig Rankin, John Howard, Dan Harrison, Don VonWeller, Grant Piros and Josh Craig all serving at least six of the seven years. Even the chain gang guys were there year after year.

“It’s been such a ride and I made a lot of lifelong friends. This chapter has been great,” Mannion said.

He said the decision to leave was a difficult one, with the unique challenge of being able to start a program from scratch playing a key role. Mountainside will open in the fall with just freshmen and sophomores and will not field a varsity football team. In year two, with three classes of students, the school will play an independent varsity schedule. In the third year with a full complement of classes Mountainside will join the Metro League.

“There are a lot of challenges and no guarantees on how it will go,” Mannion said. “It’s a unique opportunity to start a program and a really big challenge that I need to embrace and see what I can do with it.”

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