On Sept. 15, 1939, DuPont High School played its first football game, a 13-0 setback to Nitro on the road.

Before the school was swallowed up in a 1999 consolidation with eastern Kanawha County neighbor East Bank to form Riverside High School, the Panthers played the final football game of their history, a 20-17 loss to Weir in the Class AA state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium on Dec. 4, 1998.

In between, there were state championships in 1992 and 1993 and a whole lot of memories, and DuPont High alum Jesse Skiles has captured many of them in a book titled "DuPont Football History, 1939-1998."

Skiles, a 1982 DuPont High graduate, released the 360-page hardcover book in January. There were 1,000 copies in the first printing.

"A football Friday night at DuPont was really something special," Skiles said in an interview earlier this year. "Everybody understood the community feel and the pride, and that was my goal with the book.

"I really am proud of it."

In the book's introduction, Skiles writes about the origin of DuPont High School. "Before there was a DuPont High School, there was the DuPont Plant in Belle. The plant began operations in 1926 and became a major employer to the eastern end of the Valley. ... Before there was a DuPont High School, there was a Malden High School. In fall 1939, the entities of Malden High School and the DuPont Plant made a major step forward in public education for the area in the building of the new DuPont High School in what became known as DuPont City."

The Malden High sports program introduced football at the school in 1931, and Malden advanced to the state title game before losing to Charleston High at Old Laidley Field in its third season, Skiles wrote.

DuPont High's football history began with a 4-4-1 record in 1939. Wins in the first year were over Duval, Hurricane, Clendenin and Poca, while losses came at the hands of Nitro, Elkview, Kingston and Sissonville. The tied game was with South Charleston.

Skiles said the book project had its genesis in August 2013, when he joined fellow Panthers in participating in a fund-raising alumni game at Douglas Field.

"It was a special night as I got to put on the pads with not only former Panthers from different eras, but was able to play with four of my former teammates: Larry Halstead, Mike Hodge, Jerry Rumberg and Gene Williams," he wrote in the book introduction. "The old field house, the old stadium ... it was an evening I will cherish forever."

Skiles spent "pockets of time" researching the book over a three-year period, with much of that time spent poring through newspaper archives in the library at the State Capitol's Division of Archives and History, as well as DuPont school yearbooks. He completed the project in association with Lundy Bailey II, Bookmasters and DuPont alumni such as Rob Ryan.

Skiles, a Glenville State graduate, is currently the head cross-country coach at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, entering his 24th season. Last spring, he concluded his 25th and final campaign as the Bobcats' head track and field coach.

He previously published a statistical book on DuPont basketball, and he has compiled historical publications on West Virginia boys and girls high school track and field, Woodrow Wilson High and Mullens High basketball and several others.

He is currently finalizing a hardcover book on the history of the Cedar Grove High School football program, and he aims to update his DuPont basketball book into hardcover format in the coming months. He is also considering other similar projects.

Utilizing as much of the available information as possible, the current book features a section on each DuPont football team, including photos, box scores, statistical leaders, game breakdowns, etc.

Skiles' DuPont tome is not just about football, though. Many cheering or majorette squads are featured, as well as some Panther bands.

And, while the book is chock-full of stories and photos of Panther football teams, it also has features (some including interviews) on various players, a look at all-state gridders and all-state performers in some other sports, information on coaches and support staff, an extensive statistics record book, program cover reproductions and many other segments.

It was a labor of love for Skiles, who played for head coach Corky Griffith in the early 1980s.

"Growing up in the community, once you get into it, you realize how much it (the book) will mean to (DuPont alumni and family)," he added. That realization was "motivating to me."

The book is available for $65 (plus $3 postage if mailed). To make a purchase, call Skiles at 304-439-4606, email him at skiles_j@wvwc.edu or write to him at 715 Sand Fork Road, Walkersville, WV 26447.

— Email: skeenan@register-herald.com

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