Philip Haywood has seen most everything in 41 years of coaching, but 2015 certainly will go down as one of his most memorable seasons.
Along with leading the Belfry High School football team to its fifth state championship – and third in a row – Haywood picked up the 400th victory of his career. And now, for the fourth time, he can claim The Courier-Journal’s Kentucky Football Coach of the Year honor.
“One day I’ll look back and say it was a good year and tell the grandkids all about it,” said Haywood, Kentucky’s leader in career victories. “But it’s not something I think about right now. I firmly believe this is not about ‘me’ or ‘you’ but about ‘us.’ We try to live with that and believe that, not just the team and the program but the entire community.”
Haywood received 16 votes in a statewide survey of coaches, with 126 returning ballots. South Warren’s Brandon Smith (14) was the runner-up, followed by Male’s Chris Wolfe (11), Elizabethtown’s Mark Brown (eight) and Hopkinsville’s Mark Clark (five).
Haywood also was named C-J Coach of the Year in 2003, 2011 (tying with Trinity’s Bob Beatty) and 2012. Haywood and Boyle County’s Chuck Smith are the only two coaches to win the honor four times.
“It’s a great honor, but I’m kind of dumbfounded about that this year,” Haywood said. “We played well, but there are so many great coaches out there who do such a great job. I’m really pleased, but I’ll pass this off to our coaching staff and players because without them there certainly wouldn’t be this honor. … I have been blessed.”
Haywood’s Pirates finished 14-1 after whipping Lexington Catholic 43-0 in the Class 3-A championship game Dec. 6. Belfry was in the state final for the sixth straight season, having lost three in a row to Central from 2010-12 before winning its third straight.
The Pirates won in typical fashion under Haywood, using a punishing rushing attack (they attempted just 37 passes all year) and a stingy defense (posting four shutouts and allowing 13.5 points per game).
Senior Xondre Willis (1,339 yards, 16 touchdowns) and junior Andrew Fletcher (919 yards, 14 TDs) led the rushing attack, and junior tackle Rayquan Horton (84 tackles) anchored the defense.
Some observers believed this was the best team in Haywood’s tenure at Belfry.
“It’s very hard to compare teams from one year to the next, but this team certainly had some great strengths,” Haywood said. “Defensively … we played well throughout the playoffs. Offensively, we had a tremendous offensive line and tight ends up front. It was probably one of the best, if not the best, front groups we’ve ever had at Belfry.”
The only hiccup for the Pirates was a 49-7 loss to a Cabell-Midland team that went on to reach the semifinals of West Virginia’s Class 3-A playoffs.
Haywood said the loss sparked his squad for the remainder of the season.
“I think we were starting to feel like we’re a pretty good football team, and we had beaten some good teams already,” Haywood said. “But we met our match that night. … Even though it was a loss, it was a big turning point. The guys got a little more serious about doing the little things right.”
Belfry won its final nine games, including a 42-12 victory over Russell in the second round of the playoffs that gave Haywood his 400th career victory.
Haywood’s career record now stands at 403-128. He was the head coach at Prestonsburg, his alma mater, for nine seasons (1975-83) before taking over at Belfry in 1984. He’s led the Pirates to 11 state finals, going 5-6.
Haywood, 64, said he hasn’t considered stepping down any time soon.
“My stock answer is that I’m good for another year,” he said. “I’ve said that for about 15 years now. … I feel like we have a great staff of guys who know the game well and relate well and have a good mix of age and youth that keeps me young.
“As long as we keep having good players, maybe they’ll keep me around a little bit.”
* Haywood also took Class 3-A Coach of the Year honors in the statewide vote of coaches. Other winners were Male’s Chris Wolfe (Class 6-A), North Laurel’s Chris Larkey (5-A), South Warren’s Brandon Smith (4-A), Owensboro Catholic’s John Edge (2-A) and Paintsville’s Joe Chirico (A).
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
COURIER-JOURNAL HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACHES OF THE YEAR
1944 – Ralph Mills, Hopkinsville; 1945 – Ray Herndon, Frankfort; 1946 – Tom Ellis, Covington Holmes; 1947 – Ralph McRight, Paducah Tilghman; 1948 – Mike Basrak, Manual; 1949 – Paulie Miller, Flaget; 1950 – Doc Ferrell, Prestonsburg; 1951 – Nick Denes, Male; 1952 – Miller, Flaget; 1953 – Sam Potter, Lynch; 1954 – Ed Rutledge, Danville; 1955 – Bill Tucker, Corbin.
1956 – Johnny Meihaus, St. Xavier; 1957 – Fred Clayton, Caldwell County; 1958 – Jim Pickens, Bowling Green; 1959 – Don Shelton, Henderson; 1960 – (tie) Miller, Flaget, and Homer Rice, Highlands; 1961 – Roy Kidd, Madison; 1962 – (tie) Meihaus, St. Xavier, and Fleming Thornton, Hopkinsville; 1963 – John Snowden, Lafayette; 1964 – Charlie Kuhn, Male; 1965 – Thornton, Hopkinsville; 1966 – Charlie Bentley, Manual; 1967 – Virgil Rains, Mayfield.
1968 – Mike Murphy, Highlands; 1969 – Leon Dunagan, St. Xavier; 1970 – Jim Kennedy, Trinity; 1971 – Jim Gray, Thomas Jefferson; 1972 – Roy Walton, Tates Creek; 1973 – Dan Haley, Paducah Tilghman; 1974 – Bill Glaser, St. Xavier; 1975 – James Mathews, Franklin-Simpson; 1976 – Wilson Sears, Bowling Green; 1977 – Garnis Martin, Bardstown; 1978 – Jack Morris, Mayfield; 1979 – Joe Hood, Butler.
1980 – Marshall Patterson, Fort Campbell; 1981 – Jake Bell, Henry Clay; 1982 – Bill Herrmann, Highlands; 1983 – Ken Barrett, Russellville; 1984 – Tom Duffy, Danville; 1985 – (tie) Jim Cullivan, Cawood, and Mike Fletcher, Fairdale; 1986 – Sam Harp, Anderson County; 1987 – Allan Cox, Paducah Tilghman; 1988 – Steve Haag, Manual; 1989 – Joe Hood, Warren Central; 1990 – Dennis Lampley, Trinity; 1991 – Don Danko, Clark County.
1992 – Lynn Ray, Covington Catholic; 1993 – Sam Harp, Danville; 1994 – Tom Duffy, Henderson County; 1995 – Mike Holcomb, Breathitt County; 1996 – Paul Leahy, Mayfield; 1997 – Dudley Hilton, Bourbon County; 1998 – Dale Mueller, Highlands; 1999 – Chuck Smith, Boyle County; 2000 – Smith, Boyle County. 2001 – Smith, Boyle County; 2002 – Bob Beatty, Trinity; 2003 – Philip Haywood, Belfry.
2004 – Smith, Boyle County; 2005 – Kevin Wallace, Bowling Green; 2006 – Jim Matney, Johnson Central; 2007 – Jack Haskins, Lone Oak; 2008 – Steve Lovelace, Christian County; 2009 – Luke Salmons, Lawrence County; 2010 – Brad Hood, Allen County-Scottsville; 2011 – (tie) Beatty, Trinity; Haywood, Belfry; 2012 – Haywood, Belfry; 2013 – Shawn Thompson, Wayne County; 2014 – Preston King, Iroquois.