Jim Woodson played football, basketball and baseball at Powhatan High School. He returned to his roots in 1979 as a coach, and as longtime friend and colleague Bob Baltimore says, “put a reasonably small county on the map” in football.
That era, one of the most successful in the Virginia High School League, will come to a conclusion when this season ends.
The Richmond area’s winningest high school football coach announced Wednesday he will retire. Woodson, who is 280-105-1 in 34 seasons as the Indians’ coach, ranks eighth in wins on the VHSL list.
“I’ve thought long and hard, and it’s just time,” said Woodson, who informed school principal Mike Massa, activities director Tim Llewellyn, coaches and his team of his decision Wednesday. “It’s somebody else’s turn. They say you know when it’s time, and this is it.
“It’s so demanding. You’ve got an offseason program that has to be top-notch. You’ve just got to put in the time. … It’s time for somebody young with more enthusiasm, more time, to come in. It’s time to pass the torch.”
Woodson, 64, is completing his 40th season overall at Powhatan. He was athletics director for 18 years before retiring in 2017.
“Pretty much when you say Powhatan High School, it’s synonymous with Jim Woodson,” said Llewellyn, who is making plans for a celebration. “It is hard to describe what he has meant to the high school but also to the community, and what he’s brought for all of the students who have come through Powhatan High School.
“I was talking with Jimmy. He’s probably coached 60 percent of the male adults in Powhatan County, and I think he’s coaching grandkids. It’s been an unbelievable run.”
After returning to the school in 1979, Woodson served as a JV football and basketball coach. He also was the varsity basketball coach as well as an assistant before becoming the head football coach in 1985.
Baltimore coached Woodson at Powhatan. He later became Woodson’s assistant and was part of a run of success that included state championships in 1996 and 2003, state runner-up finishes in 1997 and 2005, 16 district championships and eight regional titles.
“I think he’s always been proud of being from Powhatan,” Baltimore said. “His legacy obviously goes beyond — it’s not just winning, it’s stability. It’s being able to come back into your hometown — what’s that old saying, ‘You can’t go home sometimes’ — well, he proved that wrong. It’s not only being a successful coach in wins and losses, but being successful in developing young men into citizens that represented the program and the county and him and his staff well.”
Powhatan is well represented with decorated coaches. Marie Crump is the VHSL’s winningest softball coach with more than 700 wins. Gregg Conner, the area’s winningest baseball coach, is fifth on the VHSL list with 504 wins.
Woodson, a scratch golfer who was inducted into the VHSL Hall of Fame in 2013, has a chance to add to his win total. The Indians (4-3) have two regular-season games left and are on the bubble for the Class 4 playoffs.
His win total, he said, “is really insignificant” in the big picture.
“I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to work with all these guys all these years and touch the lives of all these guys,” Woodson said, “and hopefully I made some difference.”