When the Briarwood Bucs take to the gridiron next season, Blake Duncan will be the man at the helm. The Bucs' new football coach spent the last year serving as the offensive coordinator at AAAAA public school, Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Ga.
The decision to hire Coach Duncan came days after negotiations between school officials and the search committee's initial choice - Chuck Moore of Tiftarea Academy - broke down over salary.
Briarwood Academy Board of Trustees Chairman Skip Griffin said both of the top candidates were worthy of the job, but Coach Moore was chosen first because of his contacts in the Georgia Independent School Association and his experience as a head coach.
"We had a number of attractive candidates that we talked to, but there were two that clearly separated themselves from the rest of the field," Mr. Griffin said. "...Both of them were extremely impressive, and I know either one of them would do a great job for us."
Coach Duncan said what he heard about Briarwood helped him decide to apply for the position in the first place. He also said he is ready to take on the challenge of his first head coaching position after serving as an assistant in several locations such as Americus-Sumter, Wayne County, Warner Robins and Hardaway.
"I'm really looking forward to the challenges of the coming year," he said. "I think there's a lot of potential at Briarwood, a lot of positive things I've been told about from a lot of coaches around that area and around the state that are familiar with Briarwood."
With Coach Duncan in charge of Bradwell's offense last season, the Tigers posted a 5-6 record and averaged 17.3 points per game. But his experience in football goes much further back than his one season at Bradwell.
Coach Duncan played his high school football under legendary Warner Robins Coach Robert Davis - the third winningest coach in Georgia history. In 1988, during his senior season, Warner Robins won the AAAA state championship. He went on to play college football at Valdosta State.
"I learned a lot of things about communication, organization, motivation, the three key elements to any program that wants to be successful," Coach Duncan said about playing for Coach Davis. "...I've used a lot of things in how he dealt with us as players. I've used it as a coach myself in how I deal with players, and there's a lot of validity in his methods."
"(Coach Duncan) had some success, so he's coming with a pretty good pedigree," Mr. Griffin said. "He's a very impressive young man, too"
As for the type of system he will run at Briarwood, that depends on the players on the football field, Coach Duncan said.
"I'll evaluate the personnel. I'll see what we're good at, what we're not good at or what we need to work on, then we'll go from there," he said. "...It all just depends on what we're capable of doing. We're not going to try to force a square peg through a round hole."
And the transition from a large public school to a small private school shouldn't be a problem, he said.
"Numbers is numbers, and football is football," Coach Duncan said. "If I've got 136 kids out there, I can only play 11 at a time, and I can only play my best 11, no matter how many I've got."
As for his goal as Briarwood's next head coach, it comes down to giving his best for the players, parents, boosters, school as well as the community.
"I'm going to come up there, and I'm going to give them the absolute best effort I can give," he said. "And I'm going to do the best I can to make that team as good as possible and try to make those young men better men, not just better football players but better men across the board."
Coach Duncan - who will teach physical education at Briarwood - hopes to work out the details with the Liberty County School system to make it for the Bucs' spring practice. He succeeds Jimmy Barnett who coached four years at Briarwood.