This morning, Stratford High School's longtime athletic director and head football coach, Ray Stackley, will walk those halls one last time, then head to his retirement. The successes and achievements he leaves in his wake become the goals of future coaches and players. Stackley, 63, believes that everybody has their time and his is over, at least as a high school football coach.
There are considerable numbers attached to Stackley's three-plus decades at the Berkeley County school:
One unbeaten championship season.
One state title, 1999.
Only two losing seasons, 1995 and 2008.
Four times named state coach of the year.
160 of his players received college scholarships.
And all of this was done while competing against coaches such as John McKissick, Gerald Moody, Jerry Brown and Chuck Reedy. Every one of those guys are legends in Summerville, Moncks Corner and Goose Creek.
Stackley's demeanor at practice and during games was all business. An intensity burned within him that constantly sought to exact all that he could from his players. Ray might not admit it, but he often would play the "they think they're better than us" card in the early years. He had the new kids on the block and nobody respected them.
By the time those players buttoned their chin straps on Friday nights, they believed their red and black colors were invincible. During a certain stretch, they were. Stackley's glory years came from 1997 to 2006. They won 118 games and lost just 18. Stratford football equaled Friday Knights.
His former players still call him coach. Some became soldiers and community leaders. Others now sell cars, build homes, teach, preach, work in hospitals and love telling their own children about their glory days.
Since announcing his retirement in the spring, Stackley's suffered considerable health problems. First, there was back surgery that he'd put off way too long. Complications required additional surgery due to blood clotting. Not long after, he came down with the flu.
For the past six weeks, he's been in the house and his wife, Lane, says "Ray Stackley does not do well in the house." In recent weeks, he's spent part of his day in physical therapy and a couple of hours tying up loose ends at the high school.
It appears the surgery and therapy are working and he'll be able to enjoy retirement. He might not miss those two-a-days in August, but there's a definite adjustment coming as it relates to how he spends his Fridays in the fall.
He's already joined a hunting club and says he wants to see the leaves change colors in the mountains. Those activities always belonged to others in the past.
His wife will work one more year as the principal's secretary at Stratford. They started at the school together in 1983.
Coaches can become so consumed with their jobs, it can cause uncomfortable changes once the band stops playing. Stackley says he's ready, but it doesn't mean he won't miss it. He also knows he's leaving the new staff a solid foundation. Last year's team was 12-3 and lost in the state finals.
With his health now improved and so much extra time on his hands, Stackley has already publicly stated a new goal. He plans to be the "best granddaddy in the world."
Good luck, coach, there's no reason to expect anything but success in that area as well.
Reach Warren Peper at 937-5577.