New Bear on the block

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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AHOSKIE – A former all-conference collegiate football player with a deep-rooted family pedigree in the sport is the new head coach here at Hertford County High School.

Willie Gillus III has been hired as the new head football coach at Hertford County High School. Contributed Photo

Willie Gillus III is now in charge of the highly touted Bears football program, one that has won just over 65 percent of its games (163-86 overall record) from 2004-2023.

“I’m super excited to be back in Hertford County,” said Gillus, who was on head coach Terrance Saxby’s staff at HCHS during the 2017 and 2018 seasons where he coached wide receivers and special teams.

“I’m happy with the coaching opportunities I’ve had the past few years in Virginia, but head coaching vacancies don’t occur too often at a program like Hertford County and I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the job here,” Gillus added.

Gillus spent the 2023 football season as the head coach at Justice High School, a Class 6A program in Falls Church, Virginia. Before that stint, Gillus spent three years as the head coach at John Marshall High School in Richmond, Virginia. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, John Marshall canceled one full season and played only four games in another season.

“I still valued the time I spent at John Marshall where I also served as a Physical Education teacher and as Dean of Students,” Gillus noted. “I mentored under [John Marshall] coach Ty White and also had some great mentors at Justice High School who helped me build the experience and confidence it will take to lead a great program like Hertford County.”

Gillus also credited Saxby with developing his coaching career.

“Coach Saxby taught me his offensive scheme and gave me freedom to coach the kids, he trusted me with my position group,” Gillus recalled.

At HCHS, Gillus inherits a program that’s coming off back-to-back seasons with double-digit wins (11-2 in 2022 and 10-3 in 2023) and deep runs both years in the state play-offs.

“There’s experience and talent returning at a few positions, especially at wide receiver, but there will also be an abundance of younger players, especially at quarterback,” Gillus noted. “To be honest, I’d rather have younger quarterbacks in my first season with a team as it gives all of us the opportunity to learn and grow together.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Gillus said he believes in “alignment and assignment.”

“All I ask of my players on defense is to be disciplined, be in the right position to make stops,” he stressed.

Gillus said he plans to keep the coaching staff intact at HCHS with Hermea Pugh Jr. calling the shots on offense and Orrin Gatling on defense. However, there will be an addition to the staff that Gillus knows and trusts extremely well – his father, Willie Gillus Jr.

The senior Gillus was a standout quarterback during his time at Norfolk State University – throwing for over 3,600 yards and 26 touchdowns in three seasons. After a career playing in the NFL (with the Green Bay Packers) and five years in the Canadian Football League, Gillus Jr. served as head coach at Surry County High School, compiling a 53-12 record in his five years there. He led Surry to the 1998 Virginia Group A Division I title, was the Tri-Rivers District Coach of the Year four times, and Region A Coach of the Year twice.

Gillus Jr. also served as the head coach at Norfolk State and the offensive coordinator at both Virginia Union University and Elizabeth City State University.

“Dad has been an assistant coach at Greensville County (Virginia) High School for the past eight years, helping them to make the state playoffs each year,” said Gillus III. “I look forward to him being with me and our staff here at Hertford County. His experience will be a great asset to our program here.”

Gillus III will also have another big supporter in Hertford County. His grandmother, Lillie Owens White, lives in Murfreesboro.

During his high school career, Gillus III played defensive end and tight end at Nansemond River in Suffolk, VA and served as team captain for the Warriors under coach Tracey Parker. He also played two seasons at right field on the baseball team, which won the District and Regional championships (2010-11 and 2011-12).

Gillus III then played four seasons at Morgan State University where the 6’-2”, 275-pounder was a standout tight end and long snapper. His dedication and talent were instrumental in the success of Morgan State as the team earned the MEAC championship in 2014 and participated in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs the same year. He was recognized as MEAC All-Conference at tight end and Morgan State’s Special Team Player of the Year.

“I am excited about the new coach and the football season ahead. His experience, dedication, and passion for the sport makes him an ideal leader for our team,” stated Dr. Jesse Pratt, Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools.


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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