POWHATAN – Gary Brock found his way back to Blessed Sacrament Huguenot through Shawn Pickett.
“I’m gonna blame him for everything,” Brock said with a laugh.
Pickett, who in 2018 became BSH Football’s new head coach, reached out to Brock around February of last year with the goal of bringing him onto the coaching staff. Pickett was coming from King William – where Brock had also coached – and a couple of guys there had told Pickett that Brock was still interested in running the Single Wing and Double Wing.
“He wanted someone like that,” Brock said of Pickett.
The two coaches met one day at River City Diner. They were supposed to meet for 30 minutes and get an idea of what the other was about.
“It ended up being about four hours,” Brock said with a chuckle. “We had a lot of common ground and we both were looking for the same thing.”
Brock, who was at J.R. Tucker High School at that time, told Pickett, “I pretty much figured I’d just ride off into the sunset and retire from there.” But talking with Pickett intrigued him a little bit, and Brock asked for the weekend to think about it.
Just a few days later, Brock told Pickett: “I love the place and love the idea of what you want to do with it…I’m on board.”
Brock joined head coach Pickett’s staff as his offensive coordinator…
…and helped lead BSH Football to its best season since 2013 with a winning record of 7-3 and an appearance in the playoffs last fall.
Now, Brock is taking on a new role: as head football coach of the BSH Knights.
Pickett had come to him after the season, saying that he wanted to spend more time with daughters, ages 5 and 2, and that he felt like he wasn’t getting enough chances to be with them as they were growing up.
Pickett was able to take a job in the City of Richmond at Boushall Middle School. He asked Brock if he’d be interested in taking over.
“You’re kidding me,” Brock said; but Pickett, he recalled, replied that he was dead serious, and he had already recommended him to Athletic Director James Poore.
“I said: Well...I can’t shy away from a challenge,” Brock said, “and I love this place too much to think about somebody else coming in that doesn’t have the same principals [that Coach Pickett] does.”
So Brock said: “Yes, I will take it.”
His familiarity with Blessed Sacrament Huguenot goes far beyond last year. Brock was head football coach at one of Blessed Sacrament Huguenot’s predecessors – Huguenot Academy – from 1977 to 1995, while also coaching the baseball team there from 1981 to 1996.
His storied coaching career has taken him to several different schools including but not limited to Tabb, King William and J.R. Tucker, before Pickett brought him onto his BSH staff in 2018.
He’s now looking forward to his new role at the helm of the Knights.
“I'm just thrilled to death....it’s a great challenge,” he said. “Hopefully I’m a little wiser and a little smarter than I was back when I got into it originally and I was wet behind the ears and headstrong and everything else. Since then, I’ve been around a little bit, and hopefully I’ve acquired a new outlook.”
Kids have changed a whole lot, he’s observed; particularly at a small private school like BSH, they’ll play football, but they’re also going to be involved in every other possible venture that’s going on with the school.
And when it came to last year’s group of 14 seniors, most of them hadn’t played at BSH before the 2018 season.
But leading the way was head coach Pickett, whom Brock called “a terrific guy” and a players’ coach – and who, according to Brock, genuinely cared for his players.
“He was the first one to pat you on the back when you did something right,” Brock said; he added it was incredible how the seniors, a lot of whom Pickett got to come out and play for the team, gravitated to him.
With the size that the Knights were bringing into the 2018 season – the linemen averaged around 285 pounds – the coaching staff, utilizing the Single Wing, was able to not only keep it simple – lock down up front, use the line’s bulk to its advantage and pound, pound, pound with the running game – but the coaches were also able to make that simple approach work very well.
“One thing that we could do well was just come at you and use what we had as far as weight and size and just kind of pound on you and lean on you,” Brock said. “Hopefully after a while, they’d break a little bit and we’d get in the end zone.”
This year, Brock expects the Knights’ focal point to be the defense.
“Last year it was the offense trying to get things going and jumping out ahead,” Brock said. “This year, we’re looking at our defense [to be] much better than what we had last year. I think we’ve got more speed, I think we’ve got more tackling ability, athletes over there on that side. We’re going to have to transform them into football players on the offensive side, too, but I think the defense is going to be the one to carry us in the early going, for sure.”
With returning all-state player Trevor Parker leading the team from the quarterback position in addition to playing safety on defense, Brock said his team needs to be able to mix it up and create a passing game to go along with the running game.
But he added: “We’re still going to be pretty much the type team that: you’re going to have to stop the run against us first.”
BSH Football is bringing back 14 returners from last year’s winning team.
“The kids now that we have, the ones that are returning…are kids that have seen us win,” Brock said. “They’ve seen us come back from behind and win ballgames. They’ve seen us be ahead and win ballgames. There’s an expectation…you expect to win when you go out and play – everybody does. But that’s another thing – you’ve got to experience it as well.”
Brock’s coaching staff is coming together. Jack Milstead is coming on board to work with the offensive and defensive linemen, Patrick Winterrowd’s roles include working with the defensive backs and wide receivers and Richard McMinn is working with the kickers.
From his Knights’ most recent 7-on-7 matchup, Brock complimented his team’s hustle and attitude. The linebacker corps and the first few defensive backs that they had looked pretty good from what he saw, and in the four games the Knights have played, Parker has been mostly on target while throwing the ball. On defense, he’s hauled in four interceptions in that four-game stretch.
But the team, Brock noted, has to build more depth, as well as get into better shape.
“We will definitely get out there and work like crazy,” he said.
The effort from the players – Brock added – is there.
“I think the hard work that we put in last year is something that these guys realize…doesn’t come easy, and you’ve got to get in there and fight through all the adversarial-type situations that you’ve got, including lack of depth,” he said. “We’ve just got to say: ‘Hey, I expect to play football all night long, and I’m not planning on coming out too much.’
While Brock anticipates that their 2019 schedule will be competitive and challenging, he feels like – if they’re prepared – they can meet the challenge.
“We’ve got to keep everybody healthy,” he said, “and go out there and play some good football.”