Ohio Valley Unsung Heroes: LaFollette loves announcing

WOODSFIELD — As an athlete, Lance LaFollette was one of the best Woodsfield High School produced.

These days, he spends part of his time chronicling the exploits of other Monroe County athletic greats.

As the public address voice of Monroe Central’s football and boys’ basketball, LaFollette’s voice has become a staple for Seminole fans. And while his athletic career might just be numbers in a stat book for this generation of Monroe Central athletes, his dulcet tones are leaving an indelible impression on them.

“I enjoy doing it,” LaFollette said of his public address work Friday night prior to Monroe Central’s season-opening boys’ basketball game against Bridgeport.

“I’ve either coached or played almost every sport. You learn things you like to hear and you learn things you don’t like to hear.”

LaFollette first started in the football press box about two decades ago, learning under the guidance of former PA announcer Denny Easterling.

“Every other year Denny missed a game due to a military reunion with some of his service buddies and he asked me to announce,” LaFollette recalled. “Denny was a legend at Woodsfield and at Skyvue.”

That led to the full-time gig after Easterling retired. LaFollette took on the boys’ basketball duties about five or six years ago at the urging of Coach “Scooter” Tolzda.

LaFollette said he tries to approach both his football and basketball duties the same way — with humbleness and discreteness.

“There’s a thing in the football program where it says you aren’t there to entertain, you’re there for the task,” he said.

That doesn’t mean LaFollette doesn’t like to have fun now and then. But, for the most part, he sticks to the basics.

“I’m not really a rah-rah guy,” he said. “When I do the announcing, I’ll maybe say the Monroe Central kids’ names a little bit louder than the visiting kids’, but I’ve never been that rah-rah type.”

LaFollette offered praise for area PA folks, even saying he’s learned from them and incorporated some of things they do into his own routine. One thing thing he likes to do is point out the number of years basketball officials have worked.

And, one of the most important things for him is accuracy. LaFollette recounted many times where his own name was mispronounced, so he knows the importance of being concise.

“No one wants to hear their name pronounced wrong,” he said.

LaFollette started hearing his own name called on the football field when he first went out for the Redskins’ squad as a junior in 1977, one season following its AP poll champ-winning season.

After two solid prep seasons in which he set a mark for TD catches in a season, LaFollette moved to West Liberty where he crafted an Hall of Fame career with the Hilltoppers that led to him being named first-team all-NAIA following the 1981 campaign. He signed as a free agent with the USFL’s Orlando Renegades in 1984 before his career was cut short.

LaFollette married Angie Schumacher shortly after and the couple have two daughters — Leah and Lyndsay. And, as the years went on, he coached at almost every level, including an almost-decade long stint as track coach.

Currently a banker in Woodsfield, LaFollette has stepped back from coaching and has focused more on his PA work. And while he sometimes thinks he’d just like to sit back and watch games, he quickly realizes he’s in a great position.

“My wife told me that’s what away games are for,” he laughed.”

LaFollette’s family joins him at almost every game. And he has his press box and scorer’s table “family” there to keep him company, too.

“I’m not the entertainment,” he said. “I’m just here to state the facts. The kids like it, though.”

And he’s always eager to get to the field or gym pretty early.

“That’s my pay,” he said. “I get the best seat in the house.”

If you know of someone in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter @RickThorp1