The new kid on the block.
It’s an unfamiliar feeling for Scotland’s Richard Bailey, southeastern North Carolina’s winningest prep football coach over the last decade.
Donning a red polo shirt at his own table Sunday at Bayonet Golf Course, this wasn’t the same Bailey fans have grown accustomed to strapped with a headset and purple garb since 2000.
Still confident with an inviting charm, he was different.
He wasn’t a Buccaneer.
“I imagine it’s going to be a no-win situation when I go back there in September,” Bailey said. “I love that school, enjoyed my time there and wish those guys the best, but it’s my job to sustain success at Scotland now and to ensure last year’s state title wasn’t just a flash in the pan.”
Mingling with other colleagues at the preseason 4A Southeastern Conference meeting, the former Jack Britt coach who built one of Cumberland County’s most respected programs from scratch just tried to fit in. He glanced over the league’s handbook — nearly identical to his former Mid South Conference — and joined in discussion in reference to exchanging game film. But he wasn’t necessarily the big man on campus in a room of the SEC’s elite, a group of coaches that included disciplinarians Mark Heil and Paul Hoggard as well as the intimidating Milton Butts.
Respect, at least in this league, will come in due time.
The Scots, who return just two starters off of last season’s unbeaten squad, are still adjusting to their new leader on the sideline while Bailey, admittedly tired from the daily 45-minute commute to his new gig, is taking it all in.
“I’m still feeling my way around Laurinburg, getting to know people and learning players’ names,” Bailey said. “It still feels a little different and unnerving at times trying to replace a great coach like Chip (Williams) in a football community like Scotland County.”
Winning, at least over the last five years, hasn’t always been easy at Scotland.
The Scots had three losing seasons under Williams before it all came together in 2011. Scotland ran off 15 straight wins with multi-year starters at most positions, won a 4A state title and effectively recharged a fan base that had been yearning for the crown jewel after many playoff-bound campaigns in 16 seasons under Mark Barnes.
When Williams decided to quit with a ring, Bailey seized an opportunity. His choice wasn’t without reservations, however, since Jack Britt’s current roster could be the most talented group in school history.
The Bucs won 119 games and appeared in three state title games during Bailey’s tenure.
“They’re loaded with talent, probably one of the favorites,” Bailey said. “If it all comes together, they could win a state championship.”
Bailey’s focus now and for the foreseeable future is transitioning a defending state champion into an annual power like he did in Fayetteville.
“It’s easier to get there than to stay there and that’s what I hope to accomplish,” he said. “I’d be stupid to erase the values and fundamental knowledge that coach Williams set in this program and come in here with my own. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I think we need to strike a balance and go from there.”
Senior linebacker Artemis Robinson joined Bailey for SEC festivities Sunday, one of eight players who attended the meeting with their respective coaches. Robinson has been chosen to lead a youth-laden roster as the quarterback of the defense.
“We’ve only got two starters back but a lot of kids got game experience in all those blowouts last year,” Bailey said. “We’ve got a lot of speed, a lot of track stars but we don’t have all that much size. We still have athletes and there’s some good players on our team, but we’re not very big.”
Bailey says his practices before and during the season will follow the same routine he instituted at Britt. Players will hit in full gear two days a week while the other two practice days are designed as helmet-only walkthroughs. This philosophy helped the Bucs avoid midseason injuries and iron out kinks in the game plan.
“I’m not going to change a whole lot now that I’m at Scotland,” Bailey said. “People can expect the same sort of things they saw at Jack Britt.”
— Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6119 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.