By Kyle Daubs
After being let go as Charleston High football coach eight years ago, Brian Halsey couldn’t let his love for the school disappear.
After all, he is a 1988 CHS alum, served as a coach at Charleston for more than 15 years and continued to interact with students there as a social studies teacher.
So when the opportunity presented itself to return as head coach of his beloved Trojans, it was something he couldn’t pass up.
“This town has been my life,” said Halsey. “I’m a hometown guy (graduated CHS in 1988). I remember being in elementary school and going with my dad to watch the Trojans. Then, a player, assistant coach, and head coach. I’ve always bled red and gold.”
Halsey’s first stint with the Trojans dates back to 23 years ago when he was one of the youngest head football coaches in the state.
After going 0-9 and 1-8 his first two seasons, Halsey led the Trojans to playoff appearances in five of the next six seasons. Several years later, the team won a school-record 11 games and earned a Final Four appearance in 2011. The team rewrote the offensive and defensive record books in 2012, which is the program’s last playoff appearance.
Altogether, Halsey’s teams went 75-75 between 2000-2014 with five Apollo Conference championships and seven state playoff appearances. Halsey was also the 2011 Herald & Review Coach of the Year and owns the most Apollo Conference victories (51) as well.
Despite Haley’s success, he was asked to leave after the 2014 season. One month after the team finished 1-8 for the second consecutive year, the school board voted to fire Halsey despite strong public support. Halsey never left his teaching position at Charleston and has remained with the school for the past eight years.
“Aside from what happened, it is a great place to teach,” said Halsey. “I enjoy the subject area. It was a no-brainer to stay. The part where I was blessed was that I was given the opportunity to coach again.”
Longtime friend Jason Fulton quickly reached out to Halsey about a coaching opportunity at Newton. Halsey joined Fulton’s staff at Newton High School as the team’s offensive coordinator, a position he held for seven years.
During Halsey’s tenure, Newton enjoyed some peak success. That included a 10-1 season in his first year and then an 11-1 season in 2016. The team reached the playoffs every season Halsey was there with the one exception being the 5-1 year that was shortened to COVID-19.
“I cannot sing enough praises about Jason Fulton,” said Halsey. “He reached out to me and is a great friend, coach, and man. He told me to not wallow in my self-pity and to learn to start loving the game again. I had an absolute blast down there. I saw what those kids had in their eyes. I wanted to see that in the eyes of the Trojans.”
After eight years away, Halsey said that life experience and his years away from coaching have changed his approach.
“I’ve changed a lot,” said Halsey. “First and foremost, in my approach. We can approach athletes with a lot of fire and passion, but it’s not one size fits all. In the last 10 years, we can’t coach all kids the same. We have to find what motivates them and what they need. You throw the pandemic and the socialization setbacks, we need to do our best to do what is best for them.”
In other words, the days hearing Halsey from the nearby soccer field might be gone.
“I’ve gotten more laid back, for sure,” said Halsey. “I’ve aged. Make no mistake, the passion and energy are still there, though, but one thing I learned from Jason at Newton was to not sweat the little things. You can’t stress over the little things. At the end of the day, we get these kids for a couple of hours playing a great sport, having fun, and, hopefully, teaching them how to be future great men, husbands, and fathers.”
Now, Halsey returns to a program that has gone through hard times the past eight seasons. Three coaches went through Charleston during that absence. After an 0-9 season in 2015 with Tim Hogan, the team went 3-24 with Tyler Hanner between 2016-18, which included two straight 0-9 seasons.
Jerry Payne went 13-20 the past four seasons. His 4-2 season in 2020 is the only winning season since the team went 9-2 in 2012. Payne and Halsey are both social studies but football inevitable would come up in conversations.
“Jerry brought stability and success back to the program,” said Halsey. “I want to keep that stability. I saw the good things that he did for the kids, but there is a point where you need to maintain stability. I didn’t want to roll the dice and hope for someone else. You are in the school and saw the culture that was being brought up. It’s time to get that winning culture back.”
Halsey said that seeing football players in the hallways every day drove him to apply.
“The kids,” said Halsey. “I see them in the classroom and I know how hard they are busting their tail and working hard. These kids need to experience a playoff game and get into the Apollo Conference title hunt. After a win, you see them get a pat on the back or a smile. It’s nice and I want to bring that positive culture back and let these kids be proud of all the hard work they put into it.”
Halsey said he was “overwhelmed” by the calls from former players, as well as by messages from the Newton community.
“It’s exciting. I just can’t say that enough,” said Halsey. “I can’t wait to get in and get going. The talent is there. We just need to take it to the next level. After 31 years of coaching, I’d hope we can get them there. I want them to have fun and enjoy everything. All of the pressure can be put on me. The Charleston community should be excited about next fall.”