HUNTINGTON - Huntington High stayed in house for its new girls soccer head coach.

The Cabell County Board of Education hired Highlanders' assistant Tony Shackelford as head coach Tuesday night. Shackelford has been a HHS assistant for three years.

He will remain an assistant with the boys basketball team.

Shackelford said when former coach Susan McHale left, he applied for the job and was selected from a field of "four or five."

"The girls have faith in me and trust me already," Shackelford said. "I enjoy coaching them a lot."

A standout in football and basketball at Fairland High, his school didn't have a soccer program at the time.

Shackelford learned the game from being an assistant to McHale's mother for 10 years in the YMCA youth leagues.

He continued to learn from Susan McHale, a former Huntington High and West Virginia University star.

"The McHale family is a soccer family," Shackelford said. "When I came back from the military, I coached with Susan's mom. Then I coached with Susan. She wanted someone inside the school to be an assistant.

"She's a very good coach and a very good person. She taught me a lot with her college experience."

Whether basketball or soccer, Shackelford said coaching is coaching.

He plans to continue to build on the foundation laid by McHale, with a few twists of his own.

"I'm not changing much," Shackelford said. "There will be a few things, but Susan had a plan in place and the parents liked what we were doing, so we won't change a lot."

The Highlanders lost five seniors to graduation, but return a strong group.

Senior Makenzie Grier and Kira Hayes are joined by a stellar group of juniors led by honorable-mention all-stater Sophia Aya-ay.

"We'll have a strong team," Shackelford said.

"We have some strong defenders. We had a good group of freshmen two years ago and they improved as sophomores and now they're juniors. We have some other players who will help us."

Shackelford said he is excited about his assistant coach, daughter Tory Shackelford.

"She's already working hard," he said, with a laugh.

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