Yes….you can come home again

Published 4:41 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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WINDSOR – Fifteen seasons have come and gone since the last time Bertie High School experienced more wins than losses on the football field.

The common denominator between enjoying success or suffering through anguish during that time frame is Darrius Wesson. He was among the starters on the 2006 Bertie squad that posted a 9-4 overall record. That was the last time the Falcons enjoyed a winning season.

In an effort to return the Bertie football program to its former glory, Wesson has accepted the job as the new head coach.

“We’re going to bring the honor and the pride back to Bertie football,” said Wesson during a press conference held Monday morning in the school’s media center where the formal announcement was made of his hiring.

Wesson, the son of Archie and Norma Wesson of Windsor, was a Bertie starter all four years on the gridiron under the guidance of two head coaches – Willie Roberson and Tony Hoggard. He played basketball at the school as well, three seasons for coach Calvin Moore and one season for coach Lester Lyons.

“This is a blessing to be back home,” said the 32-year-old new head coach. “This is where my support system began with my coaches and administrators, and, of course, my family as well.

“First and foremost I will be stressing academics,” Wesson remarked. “These young men will be students first and then athletes. It’s a privilege to play sports, but it all starts in the classroom. Grades come first. The first thing I’ll want to know about my players is how they are doing in the classroom. Then come their character, in school and in the community.”

After graduating from Bertie in 2009, Wesson scored a scholarship to attend and play football at Elizabeth City State University. He started at wide receiver for three seasons under coach Waverly Tillar.

Wesson holds a degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Banking and Finance, from ECSU. He used that to land a job with PNC Bank where he worked for four years before taking a position in Columbus, Ohio. He moved back to North Carolina where he worked for AT&T in Charlotte for four years.

“My calling has always been centered on young people, whether it was in church or in the community,” he said. “I felt this move back to Bertie was the right one for me.

“I know what it takes to win and I am a winner,” Wesson stressed while glancing over at a few of his players attending the press conference. “I’m going to carry on that tradition. I’m going to push ya’ll hard along the way, the same way I was pushed to become better. I’m here to guide you in the right direction in football and in life. We are going to win at both and when somebody yells ‘Bertie’ I want it to give you chills all over your body.”

Like many former athletes who donned the Bertie “blue and white”, Wesson said it’s a “pride thing.”

“I want to see Bertie win,” he stated. “Football is a thing in Bertie County. We won state championships in 1995 and 2000 and the way the community pulled together back then behind those teams was amazing. I want to have that community spirit and pride back in our football program. I want these kids to know what it feels like to win.”

Again stressing the importance of academics, Wesson said he will make study hall mandatory each day for his players.

“I don’t care what their grade point average is, they will go to study hall,” he stated. “After that we’ll watch film and then hit the weight room before practice. Everything will be structured for them.”

Wesson arrived on campus on Feb. 15 as a teacher and an assistant coach for the varsity boys basketball team. But this will be his first-ever job coaching high school football. Wesson said his style will be a mixture of what he learned from his former coaches.

“The foundation of my coaching style is discipline, which comes from coach [Tony] Hoggard and coach [Calvin] Moore,” Wesson remarked. “They held everyone accountable for their actions. They showed no favoritism.

“Another element I will use comes from the offense we ran while I was in college,” he continued. “It will blend smashmouth football with plays where we spread the field. One thing Bertie has always had is athletes…just get the ball to them in space and let them go to work.

“I’ve always wanted to coach; it was just a matter of waiting for the right job to come around and Bertie gave me that opportunity,” Wesson added. “I talk to my head coach in college very often, he’s the head coach at Virginia Union right now. I’m going to his coaching clinic next week.”

Wesson said he isn’t in a big rush to build his coaching staff at Bertie.

“I’ve got some candidates in mind, but I’ve got some time to put things together here,” he stressed. “The one thing the student-athletes here need right now is me, the head coach. They need to know who I am, learn my coaching style, and what I expect of them. Everything else, to include my assistants, will fall in line after that.”

Wesson has already circled the first playing date in August on his calendar.

“It will be here, at home, against Northeastern,” he said. “[Northeastern coach] Antonio Moore is my guy. He was my AAU coach back in my playing days. He sent me a text when I got the job here to congratulate me.”

Monday’s press conference included comments from several school officials.

“We have a vision to move Bertie athletics forward and our football program back to its prominence of the past. I believe the hiring of coach Wesson will help us do that,” said Bertie Principal Jonathan Matthews.

Bertie Athletic Director Robert Brown was an assistant football coach when Wesson was a member of the Falcons program.

“Darrius has come home,” Brown noted. “We’re excited to have him here; the kids are excited about their new coach and are already working hard in the weight room. We’re looking forward to good things, positive things, and a lot of success on the football field.”

Former Bertie standout Tony Hoggard, who later served his high school alma mater as its head football coach and then as principal, welcomed his former player home.

“I know Darrius knows what it takes to win,” Hoggard said. “He knows how I was as a coach and the importance of discipline. I’m looking forward to good things from him; this is a move in the right direction for Bertie football. Our student-athletes will get behind him.”

Since 2019, the Falcons are 6-24 overall. Their only non-losing season since 2006 came in 2012 where Bertie was 6-6 overall.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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