Victor Ridenour has some big shoes to fill. But he’s ready for the challenge.
Ridenour on Monday received school board approval to become Lampeter-Strasburg’s football coach. He succeeds John Manion, who spent the last 23 years guiding the Pioneers’ successful pigskin program before stepping down in December.
“John and I have been friends for 20 years,” Ridenour said. “He’s been like a brother and a mentor to me. He’s been fantastic.”
When Ridenour touched down at L-S back in 2001, he sought out Manion and asked if he needed any help in his coaching ranks. Ridenour started out as a junior high volunteer assistant before working his way up to head coach of the Pioneers’ junior high squad.
He was promoted to the varsity program in 2009, where he coached receivers and defensive backs before spending the last four years as Manion’s trusty defensive coordinator. When Manion stepped down in December, Ridenour immediately threw his name in the ring.
“John encouraged me to apply, and he was my biggest advocate for the position when I did,” Ridenour said. “I really appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
Manion tendered his resignation the week before Christmas after an amazing 23-year career on the Pioneers’ sideline, as L-S amassed a 177-84 record under his watch. With Manion calling the shots, the Pioneers won three District Three championships, including the last two Class 4A crowns in a row, and he guided L-S to eight L-L League section titles -- including the Section Three flag this past fall -- and into the state playoffs three times.
Now Ridenour has the keys to one of the most successful programs in L-L League history -- and to a team coming off back-to-back district championships. With the entire varsity staff returning, he’s expecting a smooth transition.
After taking the season off last fall, Bill Groff is set to return as a volunteer assistant, and he’ll be joined by holdovers Bill Knapp (offensive line), Gary Morrison (defensive coordinator), Ethan Martin (receivers), Bill Valenzo Jr. (defensive backs) and Bill Heyser (defensive line). L-S also added former Manheim Township and Lancaster Catholic assistant A.J. Cunningham to the staff this offseason.
“It will be weird sitting in the coach’s office with all of those familiar faces, and one face won’t be there,” Ridenour said. “I think that will be hard. There will be a lot of moments early on when we’re all going to miss having John sitting there in the coach’s office with us.”
Ridenour grew up near Altoona and he graduated from Claysburg-Kimmel, where he played prep football under coach Jeff Lingenfelter, whom he was quick to thank for giving him an itch to pursue coaching later in life.
After receiving a degree in speech pathology from Penn State, Ridenour took a job at L-S as a speech therapist, and he’s in his 20th year in the district. He and his wife Jenn have seven children, four dogs and two cats, so there’s always something going on in their home. And now he can add L-S head football coach to his resume.