New Thomasville Coach, Allen Brown (L.White)
BREAKING NEWS FROM THOMASVILLE, COACH BENJIE BROWN STEPS DOWN
Lexington Dispatch - Mike Duprez
While it doesn’t exactly happen every day, high school football coaches are sometimes succeeded by their sons.
It’s rare when the father succeeds the son.
It’s an even scarcer event — maybe even unprecedented — when both scenarios are played out by the same father and son with each other at different points in their careers.
In a stunning development, Benjie Brown announced Friday that he is stepping down as football coach at Thomasville High School to accept the job as assistant principal at Liberty Drive Elementary School. He is being replaced by his father, Allen Brown, who coached Thomasville to 263 wins and three state championships in 27 seasons. Allen Brown retired in 1999 and was succeeded by his son.
Benjie Brown is leaving the Thomasville program at a time when the Bulldogs are on a streak of three straight state 1-A championships and 37 consecutive wins.
“I’ve been working on my administrative degree,” said Benjie Brown. “It’s something I have been thinking about doing, and it’s time to try something different. I had the privilege of coaching some great football players at Thomasville.”
Benjie Brown, who played quarterback for his father at Thomasville, had a career record of 118-33 as a high school coach, including 87-14 in seven seasons at Thomasville. He was 19-8 in two years at Davie County and 11-11 in two seasons at Asheboro before returning home.
The 61-year-old Allen Brown, who retired in order to become an assistant coach at Newberry College, felt the urge to take over the reins once again of a program he built into one of the state’s best.
“I just felt like I wanted to do it,” Allen Brown said. “I can’t tell you exactly why. They asked me, and I decided I was going to do it. I’m going to miss seeing Benjie on the sidelines. That’s going to be different.”
Allen Brown worked four years at Newberry, the first two as an offensive line coach, the last two as defensive coordinator. But when head coach Mike Taylor was fired, the staff all lost their jobs. Allen Brown returned home and was asked by his son to serve as defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, a role he played the last four years — beginning in 2003 with the season before Thomasville’s current championship streak.
Because of Allen Brown’s continuing ties to the program, the search for a new head coach was quick and easy.
“This is a great situation to be in as an athletic director,” said Thomasville athletic director Woody Huneycutt “It couldn’t have worked out any better. You hate to lose a coach like Benjie, but to have somebody like his dad to replace him is just fantastic. I expect an easy transition.”
Benjie Brown will begin his duties at Liberty Drive on Monday.
Going out on top wasn’t a factor for Benjie Brown, who would have had star quarterback E.J. Abrams-Ward leading the charge for a fourth straight state championship. He also said he would be making the same decision even if he had not won any state titles.
“I don’t think that has anything to do with it,” Benjie Brown said. “I look at each year as a new challenge. When we’re successful is when we helped players get better and fulfill their goals. The state championships and conference championships are nice, but it’s helping the kids that matters the most. I hope to do the same for the kids at Liberty Drive.”
Benjie Brown admits football is his first love, and he could still help the program in some capacity.
“It’s hard to give up,” he said. “I’m sure my dad and I will talk football a lot. But my main focus now is Liberty Drive.”
Allen Brown, whose career record is 263-72-2, served as an assistant coach for four years under the late George Cushwa before ascending to the top job. The Bulldogs won 2-A state championships in 1988, 1991 and 1995 under his direction. The 1991 team was undefeated. Allen Brown announced his retirement after the Bulldogs fell to Robbinsville in the third round of the 1-A state playoffs in 1999.
Between them, the Browns have won 350 games and six state championships at Thomasville.
Thomasville became a 1-A school in 1997 and a member of the Yadkin Valley 1-A Conference following a North Carolina High School Athletic Association realignment. The Bulldogs were expected to dominate that classification. The Bulldogs did win 56 consecutive conference games — a streak stretching back to their days in the Central Carolina Conference — but Albemarle stood in the way of a state championship run by winning three straight titles from 2001-03.
The Bulldogs ended Albemarle’s 50-game winning streak in the third round of the playoffs in 2004, the first year of Thomasville’s current reign.
Thomasville could have a different look, especially on offense, when the season begins next month. While the tailback was still the focal point of the offense, Benjie Brown used shotgun and spread formations with some frequency the last four seasons. Allen Brown favors a more ground-oriented attack.
“I am a little more conservative on offense,” Allen Brown said. “That is true.”
While he is putting all his efforts into being an assistant principal, Benjie Brown did not rule out a return to coaching.
“I’m going to see how this goes and give it everything I’ve got,” he said. “You never know what may happen.”