Huntington trip special for Lambert
HUNTINGTON — When Charlotte 49ers head coach Brad Lambert makes the trip to Huntington with his football team Friday no one will have to show him around.
For all intents, Huntington still feels like a small piece of home for Lambert, who was an assistant coach at Marshall from 1990 to 1995 under Jim Donnan.
There is a gamut of emotions brought about for Lambert with a trip back to Marshall (5-3, 3-2 Conference USA), whom the 49ers (4-5, 3-2) play at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“It’s always an emotional trip for us, obviously, because my wife (Angie) went to school there and I met her there,” Lambert said earlier this week. ”(Marshall head coach) Doc Holliday has been really good to me over the years. There’s just a lot of ties and a lot of good memories there and a lot of good alumni from that university that I have stayed in touch with over the years. It’s an emotional day to go back and play there for sure.”
One of the major ties between the programs was the late Phil Ratliff, who coached the offensive line for Lambert until his death at the age of 44 on Aug. 9, 2015. Ratliff was an All-American lineman at Marshall during Lambert’s time as an assistant with the Thundering Herd and also was an assistant for Holliday before joining Lambert’s staff
when the Charlotte program started in 2011.
Ratliff ’s son, Dylan, is a Charlotte freshman quarterback after starring at Hickory Ridge (N.C.) High School.
Dylan Ratliff is not the only member on Charlotte’s football roster with Marshall or Huntington ties, either.
“We’ve got three players on our current team, their dads played for Marshall: Dylan Ratliff, Cody Bartram — his Dad played in the league (NFL) for a long time and he played for us at Marshall — and Caleb Parker. I was making fun of (Parker) the other day. His dad, Chris Parker, was a great tailback for us and won a lot of games. I was giving Caleb a hard time because half the time, I call him Chris because he runs just like his dad. It’s pretty cool, from that standpoint.”
In addition to the three players who had fathers that ran with the Herd, Charlotte also has former Spring Valley High School offensive lineman Trevor Stacy, who will be facing a former Timberwolves teammate for the second consecutive week. Last week Stacy got reacquainted with University of Tennessee offensive lineman Riley Locklear when the 49ers fell, 14-3, to the Volunteers. This week, Stacy will face Locklear’s older brother, Alex, who is a lineman for the Herd, along with linebacker Tyler Brown, who played quarterback for the Timberwolves.
The familiarity between the players and coaches also breeds respect and gives the game an edge, as was proven in Charlotte’s lone prior visit to Huntington when the 49ers left Huntington with a 27-24 win in 2016.
Holliday heaped praise on Lambert this week, lauding Lambert’s efforts within the program, which has has its sights set on achieving bowl eligibility in the final three weeks of play.
“Brad just does a tremendous job of coaching those guys up,” Holliday said. “They are extremely well-coached. Obviously, he has done a great job recruiting because he has some guys on defense, as well as offensively, that can really play. I am happy for Brad every Saturday, except for this one. I am happy that he is doing well and has that team playing really hard, but we have to find a way to beat them this week.”
Saturday is the “Memorial” game for the 1970 Marshall plane crash and the 75 people who perished, including 37 members of the football program. As it turns out, there might be no more fitting opponent than Charlotte because the 49ers have several members of its program that know what the weekend means in Huntington.
CHARLOTTE (4-5, 3-2) AT MARSHALL (5-3, 3-2)
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM