WELLSBURG - Joe Pepe has gone home, so to speak.
The longtime Weir High boys soccer coach, the only one the school has ever had, has been named the boys soccer coach at Brooke High School.
"When God closes one door, he opens another," said the 1974 Brooke graduate. "I've walked those halls before and it felt good to walk them again. When I went down for the interview, I was hoping they would hire me. Even as old as I am, I have a lot of fire left in me. I still don't want to give up my whistle.
"My wife hasn't seen me like this in a long time. People haven't seen me like this in a long time."
Pepe started the Weir High soccer program on Sept. 2, 1993, and he still has the newspaper clipping of the story.
He was the president of the Weirton Rotary - the Northern Panhandle Youth Soccer Association - and Chuck Robinson was the treasurer and they, along with a few others, got soccer into Brooke in 1992.
The Madonna boys program also started in 1993. Oak Glen began in 1995 and Pepe helped launch the Magnolia soccer program in 1996.
"I've been blessed," he said.
This coaching change all started with the early February posting of the Red Riders soccer job.
State law says that a West Virginia certified teacher is first in line for any coaching openings.
And, that's what happened at Weir High, contrary to any other rumor floating around.
"I had a great career at Weir," said Pepe. "I was treated very well. Leaving wasn't my choice. But, these things happen for a reason. It's in God's hands now and and it worked out very well for us.
"I hope everything works out for the new coach, the staff and the players."
This scenario could have happened anytime since Pepe started his position.
"Yes, it could have," he said. "It happened a couple of times and those guys ended up being assistants with me and it helped our program. I've had many great assistants at Weir.
"We had 20 kids go on to play college ball and a couple are coaching now. We met a lot of nice people, have good friends and coached a lot of good players at Weir. I am fortunate that former players have already sent me e-mails congratulating me and wishing me good luck and that means a lot to me."
As the Weir High job opened, the Brooke High job was closing and Pepe put his name on the list.
"I wouldn't have had an interview if a teacher wanted the job," said Pepe, who was 261-130-30 with the Red Riders. He led them to nine city championships, nine OVAC titles and one overall OVAC championship, eight sectional titles, four regional titles and were state runners-up in 2009 and 2011.
"I am very pleased to be back at Brooke. I am excited to rebuild this program to where it was. When I first started the program at Weir, Brooke was very strong and talented. They always had a varsity team with two JV teams. Wheeling Park had same thing. When I was at Weir, I always felt if we could hang with Brooke and Park, we could run with anybody in the state.
"The numbers are down right now. I'm working on the remainder of the schedule. The main thing now is to finish the schedule and get players out."
An informational meeting will be held for players and parents or their guardians at 7 p.m. March 25 in room 520.
"My first job is to make sure these kids have good grades," said Pepe. "I want them on the principal's list or the honor roll. If they are there, I have done my job. Winning is icing on the cake.
"I think we had 24 of 28 last year at Weir, or something really close to that, on the principal's list or honor roll.
"I am looking for Brooke to get its heart and soul back and get competitive again. We also want to get the kids ready to go to next level. We always built a tough schedule at Weir and we had kids ready to go. We will have these kids ready to go.
"At Weir, we played Morgantown, University, Parkersburg South and Wheeling Park. I've been calling around the state trying to finish this schedule and the guys are bending over backward to help us out. It's been great for us and we appreciate all the help.
"I've been involved in soccer since 1986 overall and these guys around the state still respect this old man."
"It's going to be a good experience."