By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Taking over on the fly as a head football coach during the season is no easy task, including one as experienced as Brian Mintz. The 1981 Southside High graduate assumed the head position two games into the 2016 season.
“I’ve never done that before,” said Mintz, who was an assistant for Westbrook for the 2015 football season. “But I’d been here for a couple a seasons and I had a good relationship with the kids, and I think things went as well as could be expected. Our kids wanted to do well, and I appreciated that from them.”
Mintz’s coaching career started at Ragland in 1988, where he remained for three seasons before moving to Glencoe for six years. In 1997, Mintz returned to Southside for four years before moving back to Ragland, where he posted a 65-31 record and led the Purple Devils to the state playoffs in each of his eight years at the school. His 2011 team finished 13-1 and made it to the Class 1A state semifinals.
Mintz broke in a number of youngsters last year that should benefit this season from their trial-by-fire experience.
“Out biggest class is our junior class, so we’re still a little bit away,” he said.
In addition, Mintz said that most of his eight-member senior class lack game experience.
“Only four of them – Addison Ponder, Court Coley, Cae-den Godfrey and Michael Thompson – have really played any, so we’re going still to be a work in progress. But those four guys are doing a good job in being good leaders for us.”
Junior Jackson Cox, who started at safety last year, will open the season at quarterback.
“I think Jackson has done extremely well,” said Mintz. “A lot of how well we’ll do depends on how fast he matures and how well he performs and executes on Friday nights. He’s a very intelligent young man, and I have a lot of confidence in him going into the season.”
Ponder and junior Hunter Grimes will be the primary running backs to begin the season.
Westbrook does have some veteran presence at receiver with Godfrey and junior P.J. Wells.
“I’m expecting big things out of P.J.,” said Mintz. “He made some big catches for us in the spring and during the summer.”
Most of the members of the offensive line have had a year of seasoning under their belt with Coley, Thompson, Jonathan Hall, Derek Graham, John Harvey, Michael Lake-Haygood, Jackson Luttrell and David Barnett.
I’m expecting that group to lead us and give whatever success we’ll have,” said Mintz.
Barnett is back on the line, along with Haygood.
The Warriors’ top two tacklers are back at linebacker in Coley and Godfrey, who both were honorable mention picks last season. Alex Burnett, John Ross Morgan and Will Lankford will be in the rotation.
Cox and Ponder will be part of the defensive backfield. Will Dixon will handle both kicking and punting duties.
Assistant coaches are Brandon Byars, Michael Chad Phillips, Kendrick Wolfe, Benjamin Hall, Renee Zeringue, Jake Kilgo and William Hill.
In addition to defending state champion Fyffe, Westbrook must navigate Gaston, Asbury, Collinsville, Ider, Sand Rock and Section in the Class 2A, Region 6 waters
“You have to put Fyffe at the top, and the rest of it will depend on who plays well on Friday nights,” said Mintz. “Sand Rock is always strong and Gaston typically is as well. I think we have the opportunity to be competitive and compete for a playoff spot.”
Mintz firmly believes that instilling Christian values takes priority over football strategy.
“I’ve always made sure we had an FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) program and have a vehicle to bring faith to the football field.
“As I get older, the importance of that grows. For 99 percent of our guys, this is it for them in terms of football, so it’s a great opportunity to bring the message of Christ to them. I tell our guys that I not only want to teach them to win on Friday night but teach them about eternity.”