Decades of football later, a plaza is named for Coach Barr

[cleeng_content id="833810402" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]SHEPHERDSTOWN — Just behind the snug pressbox at Shepherd’s Ram Stadium is a paved expanse of ground that has a new bronze plaque affixed to a low coulmn made of brick.

The plaque tells of some of the football coaching accomplishments of Shepherd graduate, Walter Barr. The area is used by those entering the stadium grounds from the west campus. Those waiting at the small concession stand at the base of the pressbox are also close to the newly unveiled plaque.

There is a portable device there that houses Shepherd clothing and other items that can be used to show support for the football team. In the shade thrown by a small tree is Al Lueck as he sits by a table and greets those wanting to join the Ram Gridiron Club. Lueck was once an assistant coach during the Barr Era at Shepherd that lasted from 1971 through the 1985 season.

Walter Barr was the first Shepherd football coach to take the Rams to a national playoff game.

Walter Barr was the first Shepherd football coach to take the Rams to a national playoff game.

That landscaped area near the pressbox is now known as Barr Plaza. Just before Shepherd’s game against Shippensburg on Sept. 7, there was a brief ceremony and talk made by Coach Barr to properly christen the newly named area.

Barr Plaza is just the latest interlude in the long football career/history of Walter Barr. Even though he is now 76 years old, he has been out of coaching (don’t ever mention the word “retired” when talking about Walter Barr) only since 2007.

After playing three sports at Clarke County High in Berryville, Va., Barr went to Shepherd where he was a left-handed throwing quarterback and a student of the game of football. He graduated, and his first coaching position came in 1962 when he was an assistant under head coach James W. Casey at James Wood High in Winchester, Va.

Barr’s first head coaching challenge came in 1967 when he was elevated to that post at James Wood.

His four-year record with the Colonels was an eye-catching 38-2-1 and included a Class AAA state championship.

Following the 1970 season with the Colonels, Barr left the high school ranks because he had been hired as the head coach at Shepherd. He was still in his mid 30s.

Shepherd began winning games right away. There were only two losses in Barr’s first season. And then a West Virginia Conference championship came in his second year (1972).

In 1983, the Rams received the school’s first-ever postseason bid, a berth to the NAIA playoffs and a trip to Tennessee to face the experience presented by Carson-Newman.

When Barr left Shepherd after the 1985 season, he was the college’s winningest coach with a record of 103-49-4.

He was inducted into the Shepherd Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989, joining about 20 of his former players and assistant coaches in that select group.

Barr’s first football coaching position once he was away from Shepherd was at Loudoun County High in Leesburg, Va.

When Frederick County, Va. opened Sherando High in Stephens City, Va., Barr became that school’s first-ever football coach.

Coach Walter Barr speaks at the dedication of a plaza named for him at Ram Stadium.

Coach Walter Barr speaks at the dedication of a plaza named for him at Ram Stadium.

Barr’s Warriors had immediate success.

In 1996, Sherando reached the state championship game. In 1997, the Warriors had an undefeated regular season and once again waded through the long Virginia playoffs and landed in the state championship game.

Winchester had long been a “football town” and there was a small college (Shenandoah) in the city that began thinking about the feasibility of starting a football program that could possibily bring more students to the campus.

Shenandoah put Barr in charge of finding and evaluating the facts and totaling the cost of building a stadium and bringing a grass roots football team to the school. Would a football team help bring more students and a higher quality group of students to Shenandoah? Barr told the athletic director and school administration he believed football would help bring more students to the school. His input was judged and in a short time Shenandoah announced it would start a NCAA Division III football program.

Not only would football be coming to Shenandoah, but Walter Barr would be the first head coach.

In 2000, the Hornets fielded their first team.

Once the program was established and a high-quality stadium with an artificial surface was completed, the Shenandoah program was on firm footing.

However, in all the years since Barr had left James Wood, the Colonels had never had any concentrated success. Losing seasons were the norm. Beating city rival, Handley, almost never happened. The last winning season with James Wood football had been in 1981.

Barr heard the call of the first school he had ever coached. And so in 2005, he returned to the high school ranks and accepted a position as head coach of the Colonels. He told adminstrators he would stay three years.

The first year of Barr’s return to James Wood, the Colonels went 1-9. But the second season produced a 7-3 record and in Barr’s third year, the overall record was 8-3 and a Region II, Division 4 Virginia playoff berth was earned.

As of now, Barr’s last year of coaching was the 2007 season at James Wood. As of now!

It was in March of 2008 when the Virginia General Assembly passed a joint resolution commending Coach Barr on his many years of successful coaching and his recent stint at James Wood.

The resolution was finalized by the words “RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, that the General Assembly hereby commend Walter Barr on his many achievements and his tremendous success as head coach of the James Wood High School football team; and, be it RESOLVED FURTHER, that the Clerk of the Senate prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Walter Barr as an expression of the General Assembly’s admiration for his leadership and commitment to his players and the James Wood High School community.”

Only Barr knows what football juices are still bubbling inside him.

But if he doesn’t return to coaching, there are the Barr Plaza at Shepherd and the Virginia General Assembly proclamation as firm reminders of what he did through his decades of coaching football teams and football players.[/cleeng_content]

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