Grace Christian Academy assistant coach John Brewster says coaching against his former team and some of his former players will be difficult, but exciting.
Brewster and the Rams will host Oneida Friday for the second round of the Class 2A state football playoffs (kickoff: 7 p.m., WBNT).
“I am looking forward to seeing how these young men have matured on the playing field and knowing that I had a positive impact on them,” Brewster said of Oneida’s juniors and seniors, who he coached for two years before leaving OHS after the 2011 season. “These young men are a big part of who I am today. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have coached them at Oneida.”
Friday’s game will be Brewster’s first against his alma mater, where he joined Tony Lambert’s staff as an assistant in 2007 after a coaching stint in White County, and later served as head coach for three seasons in 2009-2011. As head coach, Brewster had a record of 20-14, winning the 2009 District 4-A championship and advancing to the Class 2A quarterfinals in 2011. He was notified after the conclusion of the 2011 season that he would not be rehired as football coach, with administrators at Oneida citing a desire to go a different direction with the football program.
No Revenge Necessary
While some have called Friday’s game a “revenge” type of opportunity for Brewster, he says bluntly that it is anything but.
“To want revenge means that I am currently bitter and I have nothing to be bitter about,” Brewster said. “I was let go at Oneida and five days later coach (Randy) McKamey hired me as the assistant head football coach at one of the top schools in the state of Tennessee. It worked out pretty well for us all.”
Brewster said he sees Friday’s game as simply an opportunity for his team to move one step closer to its goal of winning a state championship.
After emerging from TSSAA probation prior to the start of the 2012 season, Brewster’s first on the staff, Grace Christian instantly became a title contender in Class 2A. The Rams were considered a favorite to win the state championship in 2012 before late-season injuries proved too much to overcome. This year, GCA has been the state’s top-ranked team in Class 2A throughout the season and is considered a heavy favorite to win the championship. Oneida hopes to have plenty to say about that on Friday, and Brewster said there is little doubt that the Indians are up to the challenge.
“The film does not lie,” Brewster said. “Oneida is by far the second-best team we have played all year.”
In a community where his family is deeply ingrained — the Brewsters are well-known through the construction business, Brewster Builders, that John Brewster’s father and uncle helped start, and his cousin Gary Brewster owns B&B Metals — Brewster stays in touch with a number of his former players.
“This is an unusual circumstance this week,” he said. “I had roughly 25-to-30 phone calls and text messages by Tuesday morning and I anticipate many more by Friday. I still keep in contact with a lot of my former players.”
Finding A Home At GCA
When Brewster landed at Grace Christian following his somewhat unceremonious departure from Oneida, he found a destination that quickly became home both as a teacher and a coach.
Founded by Grace Baptist Church, the school has quickly grown as one of the state’s most renowned private academies from both an academic and athletics standpoint.
“Working at Grace is an unbelievable blessing,” Brewster said. “Everything about it is exciting, from the first-class people to the facilities. I enjoy the challenge of working at a school where the expectation level is so high spiritually, academically and athletically.
“Having the chance to share my testimony daily with students and having the common bond of Christ is an extraordinary blessing in which I am grateful,” he added.
Not that everything at a private school is necessarily what it is perceived to be. Brewster has teaching responsibilities in addition to coaching responsibilities. He helps with the academic support program each morning before school and team-teaches five ninth grade strength and conditioning classes during the day. Every ninth grade student at the school lifts weights and does speed training, even if they are not involved in the athletics program.
Working with the GCA staff has been a welcomed experience, Brewster said.
“Randy (McKamey) is very receptive to any ideas that I may have and has given me a lot of leeway to run with those ideas,” he said. “As our academy grows we will try and remain in the forefront of innovative ideas.”
Brewster said he has learned much under McKamey’s tutelage.
“In essence, we are running two completely different offensive systems within one system,” he said. “It is a very sound system and very difficult to defend. Our defensive coaches are top-notch, too. There is not a better group of defensive coaches than Matt Green, Eric Woodward and Tim Minga.”
Just Like Any Other Game
Brewster said that the familiar look of the orange-and-white uniforms and the spear helmets on the other side of the field will not affect his approach to Friday’s game.
“If I approach this game any differently than I do any other game, it will affect how I coach and the decisions that I make during the course of the game,” he said. “Oneida is extremely talented and athletic. Cole West (senior, QB/S) is one of the top two or three athletes we will face this year.”