ASHEVILLE – Chris Brookshire isn’t the same football coach who turned over the keys at Erwin in 2007.
The Warriors have won an average of 8.4 games per year since then and elevated themselves from a Buncombe County afterthought to one of its top-three programs.
Brookshire said he has matured and gotten better as a coach, too.
Jackson County Schools wrapped up a quick search for Smoky Mountain’s new football coach on Monday. Brookshire was announced as the replacement for David Napert, who was fired in late-November after going 20-14 in five seasons.
Brookshire, 45, put together a 17-38 record in his five seasons at Erwin. He has remained in the western Buncombe County community as a middle school coach, and then later was a Western Carolina University assistant (offensive quality control) for the past two years.
The Smoky Mountain job was so intriguing that it could not be passed up.
“I’ve been waiting for a good opportunity, and felt like I got a great experience out at Western Carolina University,” Brookshire said.
“It was really a no-brainer for me when the job came open at Smoky Mountain because of the history. They have won so many state championships in Jackson County (as Sylva-Webster). They love football out there.”
Brookshire is a 1988 Tuscola graduate.
Smoky Mountain has suffered about as much as any mountain football program in recent years.
The Mustangs have not enjoyed a winning season since 1999. They had to forfeit five games in 2013 for the use of an ineligible player after going 7-4 up to that point.
The next NCHSAA realignment will take hold for the 2017-18 school year. In the meantime, Brookshire is cognizant of the challenges he will face from such WNCAC programs as Franklin, Pisgah, Tuscola and West Henderson.
“Top to bottom, there are a lot of quality teams and history with everyone you play,” Brookshire said.
“It’s gonna be a tough game every Friday.”
Brookshire is the first football-coaching hire for Smoky Mountain athletic director Adam Phillips.
“We’re very excited to have him,” Phillips said.
“He has got a lot of experience, from the middle school, high school and college level. The future is bright for Smoky Mountain football.”
The Mustangs will not have any returning All-WNCAC selections.