CENTENARY, Ohio — Patience is a virtue.
After twice being passed over for the head football job in a five-year span, the third time proved to be the charm for Josh Riffe after being chosen as the new gridiron coach at Gallia Academy High School during the most recent Gallipolis City Schools Board of Education meeting held on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Riffe — which rhymes with wife — has eight seasons of experience as a varsity assistant, which includes stints at four different programs from multiple states. He has also been employed as a high school history teacher at GAHS over the past five years.
Riffe applied for the Blue Devils’ opening in 2009 and eventually stayed on as an assistant after GAHS chose Mike Eddy to replace Matt Bokovitz as football coach. Riffe was at Gallia Academy for three seasons before spending the last two years at Meigs as an assistant under former NFL player Mike Bartrum.
Riffe — a 2001 graduate of Wyoming East (W.Va.) High School and 2006 graduate of Marshall University — also applied for the position a year ago when Wade Bartholomew was ultimately selected as Eddy’s successor. Bartholomew went 5-5 in his one season and recently accepted the same job at Bloom Carroll.
Riffe started his coaching career in 2006 as an assistant for one season at Chesapeake, then moved onto Class AA perennial-power Wayne for two years before coming to GAHS. He was also part of a Class AA championship team in 1999 as a junior at Wyoming East.
Riffe — who will turn 31 in August — has put in his time and has long awaited his chance to one day be a head football coach. And now, that dream is a reality — which is something he is truly thankful for.
“I’m really excited because being here in the community for the last five years, it’s something that I’ve always wanted,” Riffe said. “I’ve wanted to be a head coach as long as I can remember, and this is actually the only place that I’ve ever applied for a head coaching job. This has been a goal of mine and I’m real excited to get the opportunity to be here.
“I’ve always had a goal of trying to get somewhere and stay there. I live here and I’ve taught here for five years, and I’ve coached here for three years. Now I have this opportunity to build a program and hopefully maintain it. That’s the part that most excites me right now.”
Each of the four programs that Riffe has worked with have been involved in the playoffs over the last six years, although not all happened during his time there. He is, however, very familiar with how each of those teams managed to become successful — which is something he plans to bring with him to Gallia Academy.
“I’ve learned different things and approaches from the different places that I’ve been in the past, but I’ve also learned that you have to have people around that you respect and trust,” Riffe said. “I’ve also learned that it’s about doing what matters, which is making the kids better people.”
The fact that Riffe is not so far removed from the program means that some of the upperclassmen will remember him from a few years back. It’s also a big plus that a majority of his staff is either from or currently working at GAHS.
Those attributes should help make the transition a little easier to handle — on both sides.
“With all of the stuff that I’ve dealt with here recently, I can imagine how much harder all of this would have been if I didn’t know the kids and the surroundings,” Riffe said. “It does help that the kids are already familiar with me, and most of the staff is already from here as well.
“This allows us to go into the weight room and into the offseason with a fresh start. It’s not about the kids learning us or us learning the kids. We can just focus on becoming a better football team.”
When asked about what his approach on Friday nights would be, Riffe wasn’t hesitant in responding that it would depend on the strengths of that year’s squad.
“We’ll run a little bit of a pro-style offense, the kind that will work best around the pieces we have. I’m not a set in stone guy like Bob Lutz at Ironton, but if we have the kids that allow us to run six plays successfully — we’ll do it,” Riffe said. “We are going to do whatever it takes to give us the best chance of winning football games week to week.”
Riffe believes that his previous coaching experiences will benefit the Blue Devils in the long term, particularly with all of the different styles that he’s picked up along the way.
And even with the future of the SEOAL in question, Riffe is choosing to just focus on getting his kids ready for the rigors of the regular season.
“One of the things I picked up from Coach (Tom) Harmon at Wayne was that we are going to do what we do and let the chips fall where they may. All we can control is our effort and the things that we do,” he said. “Regardless of who the opponent is or what league we play in, all we can focus on is what we do in each of our 10 games on the schedule.
“You have to have a plan and stick to it. The rest will work itself out.”
Riffe resides in Gallipolis with his wife Michelle — a 2000 graduate of GAHS — and their daughter and son, Abigail (4) and Landry (2).