Column: Forester the right choice to be Briarwood’s coach

Published 3:11 pm Thursday, December 27, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

During the last two years as sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter, I knew Briarwood head coach Fred Yancey was closing in on his retirement, which caused me to ponder who might take over for one of the greatest coaches in the state’s history.

One name always came to mind; defensive coordinator Matthew Forester.

From the first time I covered a Briarwood football game back on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, which happened to become Yancey’s 250th win with a 43-21 victory against Shelby County, all the way through the 2018 football season, Forester stood out to me as a man ready to lead.

It starts simply with his passion for the game.

As a journalist roaming the sidelines on Friday nights throughout the fall, I get a different perspective than most fans, and even a lot of coaches and players.

While those players and coaches had spent more time with Forester than at home, I was able to observe him during a game on the sideline.

I became more and more impressed with how he carried himself after successful plays and after a series didn’t go the way he or the players wanted it to.

Understanding his players, he knew how to react to certain situations and would get mad at the right time, use mistakes as teaching moments at the right time, and get pumped up for his guys at the right time.

I would often be standing right next to the coaches box on a defensive series, and would just listen to what he was telling his guys before the play, before watching his anxiety during a play, and then seeing how he reacted to each play.

I find myself doing that with a lot of coaches as a football nerd, but for some reason he stuck out a little more than the rest, and nearly every time I observed him, my first thought was, “This guy can lead a team.”

While I have seen Forester yell at his guys and get upset with how they are playing, he does it in a way to motivate his team, knowing their capability to be great.

After all, the coach has led one of the best defenses in the state over the last eight years under one of the best coaches to learn from.

Over the last three seasons, his defenses have given up just 11.4 points per game and have posted a 35-6 record during that span. He has also helped the Lions total 16 shutouts in his eight years, while holding 33 opponents to seven points or less.

When Yancey announced his retirement a month ago, the first name that popped into my head was Forester. Throughout the search he remained one of the top two in my head that made sense as a replacement, and at the end of the day athletic director Jay Matthews, alongside a strong vetting team, had the same idea.

It just made too much sense to promote a guy with the experience at a private school having coached alongside one of the greatest and led some of the best defenses in school history.

During the announcement of Forester as the new head coach at an intimate gathering in Briarwood’s library on Wednesday, Dec. 26, that became even more evident as person after person stood up in an emotional outpouring of support to praise Forester and their belief in what he is capable of as the head coach of the Lions.

His leadership as a Christian man and as a teacher and coach of young men is obvious, which has the program excited for the future.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind this was a home run hire, and one that Briarwood will cherish for many years to come.