Coach Wilkinson Wins Numerous Awards
Earlier this school year, Manchester Hawks Varsity Football team began a new legacy by receiving more than just passing yards, they received a brand new head coach who won multiple awards because of his fantastic job with this Hawk team: Brian Wilkinson.
Coach Wilkinson won APP Division Coach of the Year, APP Shore Conference Coach of the Year, NJ.Com Shore Conference Coach of the Year, and was a NJ.Com Nominee for Coach of the Year in the state of New Jersey (subscriptions to linked publications may be required to read linked articles).
In a matter of only a few short months, Coach Wilkinson built a resume that some coaches don’t build in years of coaching. But for Coach Wilkinson, it was much more than what he did for the players, but more of what the players did for him. “This was a great bunch of men. They had to overcome COVID, quarantine, changing schedules, learn a new offense, and work for a new coaching staff. Through it all they stayed focused and improved every week,” he said.
Speaking of COVID-19, Coach Wilkinson elaborated on what it was like to combat the challenges of a COVID riddled season, “It was a challenge to keep a routine every week. It was a challenge to communicate efficiently, and it was a challenge to overcome the two week dead period at the beginning of the season. Like any challenge, it was rewarding to overcome it.”
Not only did the Hawks overcome the challenges of COVID-19, they improved immensely from last season, finishing 5-3 in the shortened season and going undefeated in their division. How were they able to turn it around so quickly? Coach Wilkinson let everyone know who is responsible for the change of under .500, to legitimate contender. “That is on the players,” he said. “We became what they wanted to become. My staff did a great job of putting in place a structure that allowed them to succeed, but, in the end, we became what our players wanted to be. Our seniors led us, our underclass followed, and we worked together.” Wilkinson is also proud of the way the team matured as the season progressed.
After all the hard work this season, Coach Wilkinson looks at the awards he received as “more of a reflection of the job the players and the staff did than me. Football is a team sport more than any other sport is. I am proud of the awards because it is a reflection of the program in its entirety. Those awards aren't really about me.”
Coach Wilkinson made an impact on his players this season. Senior Peter Pirrone said, “Coach Wilk motivated us to become better as players and students off the field and he made us get closer as a team.”
Senior linebacker Chris Grille spoke about the respect he has for his coach. “He got us believing as soon as he got the job,” Grille said. “It’s definitely how much he cares about us. When he first got the job he and a few coaches who were already on the staff prior drove around to all our houses to say hello and told us how pumped they were. Right then and there all of us knew it was going to be a great year. Even during the season when we were down during games he told us how much we meant to him and how much he loved coaching us. Our team was truly a family and it shows why we were one of the best teams in Manchester history.”
Grille explained some of the challenges the team faced this year. “We were a group 3 school playing group 1 schools. Then all of a sudden COVID hits and we’re back to playing the tougher group 3 and 4 schools of Ocean County. Everyone picked Lacey week 1, and for us to pull off that upset really turned everyone’s head. We beat teams we didn’t have really any success against in the past.” Grille said. “What Coach Wilk did for us this year was get a bunch of kids believing in each other. Coach Wilk turned the Manchester team into a winning team, and more impressively, a competitive team. It’s something my teammates and I will never forget, and I’m truly grateful to have been able to call him my Coach.”
This fall was more than a special season for the Hawks Football Team. It was one that the seniors will never forget because of Coach Wilkinson’s leadership.
Students who are interested in participating in the Hawks Football Program next year should stop by the weight room after school, as preparations for the 2021 season have already begun. It’s never too late to be a part of the program.