Looking back at longtime coach Don Verran

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Don Verran spent 39 years coaching at Happy Valley High School and oversaw the Warriors Track & Field and Cross Country programs the entire time.
He produced some of the greatest athletes in Carter County history and trained a few state champions.  He captured many Watauga Conference track & field championships, and the school’s track is named in his honor.
Don was a 1962 Happy Valley graduate and excelled as a player for the Warriors. A halfback/defensive back, he led the team in scoring (36 points) and touchdowns (6) in his senior campaign and also passed for a score that season.
He was named an All-Watauga Conference defensive back following his senior season.  Verran was selected as a Back on the Elizabethton Star and Johnson City Press All-Watauga squads. He gained his college education at East Tennessee State University.
Verran also performed two stints as Happy Valley’s football coach with the first from 1972 to 1981. During this period, he guided the Warriors to four Watauga Conference titles (1973, ’74, ’76, ’77) over a five-year stretch and their first-ever playoff appearance (’77).
The 1973 team posted six shutouts, yielding 43 points to Sullivan West, the Warriors surrendered just 16 in the other nine games combined.
Happy Valley’s 1974 squad held the opposition under ten points on seven occasions. The ’77 team achieved five shutouts while giving up a mere 63 regular-season points.
Verran came back to coach Happy Valley football in 1993 and 1994. His ’93 playoff squad went 8-3 and rose as high as No. 4 in the Class 3A poll.  He finished with a 64-57 record in his 12 years as a football coach, crafting a 38-21 conference worksheet.
Verran led the Warriors to three unbeaten conference marks (1973, ’76, ’77).  He walked away as the program’s all-time leader in coaching wins and still ranks number two in that department.
“I did my student teaching under him,” said Coach Greg Hyder. “It was a pleasure being around him as a young coach and teacher. He was my dad’s best friend.
“I grew up watching guys like him and he was a great Christian man, a great example. I love Coach Verran but I promise you I didn’t show up one day to teach with him without an ice-cold Coca-Cola” said Hyder.
In track, some of his best were David Hughes who won the mile, two-mile and twice in Cross-Country.  Andy Crude won the cross country mile.  Doran Marcus won the 440-yard dash and Jeff Vance won the 800 all totaled for eight induvial State Championships under Coach Verran.
There were also many second and third-place state finishes during the Verran era. On two occasions, Happy Valley finished third in team scoring at the state meet.
“Don always did a great job in track and cross country. He helped those kids reach their full potential,” stated former Cyclone Track Coach Jim Presnell.
Verran’s 2003 Lady Warriors posted a runner-up state finish in Cross Country. One of his harriers, Katie Williams, was a four-time all-state performer.
“When Coach Verran wanted us to go faster at practice,  he would say, “Crank it up a notch” while he would place one hand in the palm of the other to demonstrate turning a knob” stated Williams. “He always wanted us to push ourselves to be great and that wasn’t possible without a dedicated work ethic.
“I will always remember how Coach Verran was a man of faith. He was sincere, humble, and selfless” Williams related. “Never once did he complain about the long road trips to meets. He found joy in everything and his laugh is one that is absolutely unforgettable.”
Don and his wife, Nancy McKeehan Verran, have two children — a son, Scotty, and daughter, Shavon and three grandchildren.
Scotty remains a school record-holder in the 300 dash and 1,600 relays while Shavon emerged a solid performer in track and field and cross country.
Scotty was also an all-state football player for the Warriors, had a standout career at Emory & Henry College and later coached the Warriors himself.  He served as an assistant coach under his father in track & field, cross country, and football.
Don is a member of the Happy Valley High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame.

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