Darrell Brewer never regretted stepping away from coaching football after he resigned his job at Avery High School in 2015.
After all, his daughter was undergoing hip surgery at a Shriner’s Hospital, his family needed him, and, as he’d be quick to tell you, there are some things more important than football.
Still, deep inside, Brewer knew he wasn’t finished with the game he loves.
“I stepped away from head coaching for a few years,” he said. “My daughter had some health issues, and I just felt like I needed to be a dad. The first couple of years I was away from it, I was OK. I did what I needed to do for my family.
“But I never felt like I was through being a head coach. To come back into here and feel like I’m stepping right back in at home to be a head coach, it’s an awesome feeling. I’m happy to be here.”
‘Here’ in this case is McDowell High. Brewer, 48, became the ninth different head coach in the school’s history earlier this week. He steps into the spot vacated by Andy Morgan, who resigned in May after three years at the helm.
His daughter’s health difficulties now fully resolved, Brewer served as defensive coordinator at Cloudland (Tenn.) High last year. Until the MHS job came open, he planned on doing that again. But fate intervened, and Brewer couldn’t be happier.
Wednesday afternoon, he and the Titan assistants were putting the team through its paces during one of the spring workout sessions allowed by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The veteran head coach, who went 68-71 and led Avery to the State 1A Playoffs in every one of his 11 seasons, said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Brewer. “I’m overwhelmed a little bit by the timing of it. I wasn’t looking for a job, and this one sort of popped up and fell into place. It’s been a whirlwind. You come in and feel like we’re behind the 8-ball. It’s an odd situation to come in at this time, but I’m excited to be here. I was very happy to see the way the boys worked in the weight room yesterday; they worked their tails off. We ran them yesterday, and I left here more excited than when I pulled up yesterday morning.”
That isn’t surprising, since, in a way, Brewer said he feels like he’s coming home. The Avery native said there are obvious similarities between his home county and McDowell.
“It’s a little bigger, but it’s set up similar to Avery County – just one high school and that’s the whole focus of the community,” said Brewer. “That’s something that I felt like makes me a good fit, because that’s what I know. I know how important the community is to the program. That’s the thing we’ve got to have.”
Brewer added he knows it will take more than the efforts of one man to improve a program that has struggled for two decades, with only a pair of winning seasons since 2001. The Titans went 4-8 last year, 2-9 in 2017.
“I told the coaches yesterday, I’m not God’s gift to football,” he said. “One guy is not going to do anything. I believe that. Now, a coaching staff, a high school, a community – we can turn this thing around, but it’s going to take all of us. It’s going to take everybody from the superintendent backing us to the little league backing us. We’re all Titans.”
Perhaps the most daunting task facing the Titans right now is making up for lost time. Offensively, the team will switch from Morgan’s spread offense to Brewer’s wing-T, and time is of the essence when it comes to installing the new sets.
Brewer said he hopes getting back to basics – blocking and tackling well and controlling the football – will make a difference.
“Offensively, I like a power game,” he said. “I love a football team that can line up and mash you. But also, through the years, I’ve been known to throw the ball some. I think, at a small school especially, you have to evaluate what you have. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win football games. Sometimes that means we’re going to run it more, and there might be a game or two where we have to throw it more.
“I want to have a ball-control offense and an attacking style defense, and we want to hit you in the mouth on both sides of the football. That’s what I want to have.”
To help with those goals, Brewer has enlisted the aid of former Avery coaches James Condrey and Mike Laws, who will join the coaching staff. Condrey, who Brewer said is “as good a wing-T coach as I’ve ever been around,” will serve as offensive coordinator.
Some of the current Titan assistants, including veteran defensive coordinator Keith Styles, will remain on the staff.
“There are some good coaches here, and I’m going to bring a couple of good coaches with me,” said Brewer.
If they’re anything like the new head coach, it won’t take the assistants long to settle in at MHS.
“This is home,” said Brewer. “These guys – these are my kids; these are my kind of people. I’m one of those guys who may not fit in everywhere, but I fit in at McDowell.”
Notes: The Titans will continue their spring and summer workouts with an eye on 7-of-7 competition later in the summer. McDowell will square off against Owen on June 27, but no other 7-on-7 dates have been finalized…Brewer and his wife, Andrea, have been married 25 years and have two daughters, the younger of whom is a sophomore in college…Brewer’s Avery teams went 3-2 in five meetings with the Titans…McDowell will have to replace its top passer, rusher and tackler from last season, as well as the top three receivers…Morgan has accepted an assistant coaching job at A.C. Reynolds…The Titans open the season Aug. 23 at R-S Central, and will play a 10-game schedule with open dates Sept. 20 and Nov. 1…McDowell and Avery will not play this year…The Titan jayvees went 5-5 last season and posted a 4-3 mark in Northwestern 3A/4A Conference play.