Briarwood names new head football coach

Published 6:07 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – After a legendary 29 years at the helm, Briarwood head football coach Fred Yancey announced his retirement on Monday, Nov. 26, leaving the Lions with a gaping hole to fill, but a month later, the school has found its next head coach.

On Wednesday, December 26, a month to the day after the announcement, BCS announced that former defensive coordinator and football player Matthew Forester would be named the new head coach of the Lions effective immediately.

“Evaluating coaches over the past few years has made me acutely aware of the qualities essential in coaching today’s student-athletes,” said Briarwood Athletic Director Jay Matthews. “The next generation of successful high school coaches will need to connect with their team at previously unprecedented levels. The degree of that connection will allow coaches to push and demand excellence which contributes to a healthy team culture. This is where Matthew Forester excels at Briarwood.”

Forester has been the defensive coordinator at Briarwood for the last eight years and has been at the school for a total of 13 years.

During his time as a player, he was named team captain and led his team to a perfect 15-0 state championship season, while racking up several awards along the way before coming back to coach for his alma matter, where he has succeeded tremendously coaching the defensive side of the ball.

Over the last three years, the Lions have allowed just 11.4 points per game with a 35-6 record during that span. He has also helped BCS total 16 shutouts in his eight years, while also holding 33 opponents to seven points or less in 33 of 103 games.

Now he gets his crack to lead the team.

“Briarwood football is not about one person getting the accomplishments, it’s about the team getting the accomplishments together,” Forester said. “Because of this, I look forward to the future of our program. I’m grateful for the people that have invested in me.”

Forester will also benefit from having coached under the legendary Yancey, who in his time at the helm was able to lead teams that gave up less than 20 points per game in 23 of his 29 seasons.

“I’m proud to have coached Matthew, thankful to have coached with him, and now, I’m excited that Coach Matthew Forester has been selected to lead the Lions as our new head coach,” Yancey said.

Their relationship has been a culmination of 20 years of hard work dating back to his playing days before coming up as a coach under Yancey, and fittingly, Yancey was the one to introduce Forester.

“Fun just having coach Yancey introduce you,” Forester said. “To think about the legacy he built in his 29 years as head coach, to be one of his former players, and to coach alongside him.. what a blessing to have coached with him and be coached by him.”

During an intimate gathering at the school’s library on Wednesday, the announcement was made, and it wasn’t just Yancey but several players, coaches and people close to BCS that stood up and said many great words about their trust in Forester to keep the Lions’ longstanding success going.

After a long vetting process over the last month that included 55 official applicants and more than 65 inquiries from Alabama, California, Kansas, New Jersey, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky and Arizona, Matthews was able to narrow the list down to 10 semifinalists and three finalists, but couldn’t step away from what he had seen from Forester over the last eight years.

“I watched coach Forester coach junior high track athletes last spring,” Matthews said. “His love and passion for those seventh and eighth grade students are symbolic of what makes him great. In his mind, every coaching opportunity matters. He was coaching those young athletes as hard as he could, no different than if it were a football state championship game. That passion comes from his relationship with the Lord. You want that guy coaching and mentoring your kids.”

Forester emerged early on in the search, but really became a front runner when players, coaches, parents and peers reached out with their support, including a long list of current popular coaches at the high school level in the state as well as former players and coaches such as Barrett Trotter, Joe Craddock, Joey Jones and Tim Castille.

Another popular name, that many thought may actually apply for the job, was former Clay-Chalkville head coach Jerry Hood, who stepped down a couple years ago to watch his son compete at Oak Mountain.

“It is with tremendous excitement that I learn of the appointment of Matthew Forester as head coach of Briarwood Christian School football team,” Hood said. “I have known coach Forester for many years and believe that he is the right man, at the right place and time for Briarwood.

“He has been the top assistant for coach Yancey for many years. A true Briarwood man. There is no doubt that he loves the Lord in a mighty way. I have seen it on display during the time that I had to work with him. Coach Forester’s knowledge of the game of football is tremendous. Watching him work with kids and scheme on the football field taught me a lot. Coach Forester is ready. I can’t wait to watch the godly influence he will have on Briarwood Christian School.”

Forester will immediately take over the head coaching role and will start putting together his staff for each of the school’s teams starting with middle school, all the way up to varsity.

The staff will likely include one or two more additional outside coaches, but those announcements aren’t expected to be announced until early on in the new year.