Panthers’ coach breaks record in dramatic fashion
Franklin High School head varsity football coach Josh Brooks reached a milestone last Friday night, capturing his 48th career victory against an outmatched North Henderson squad. The lopsided victory makes Brooks the all time winningest coach in the program’s history, a remarkable achievement considering Brooks is only 37 years old.
In just his sixth year at the helm, Brooks has managed to compile a 48-23 record, breaking former head coach Fred Goldsmith’s wins record, and forever leaving his mark on a program that spans several decades.
“The biggest thing to me has been the commitment we have gotten from our players, the community, the school, and especially our coaching staff,” said Brooks modestly.
In a community that is immensely passionate about football, Brooks’ reign has been marked with success. Considering the fact that he took over the program from a former collegiate coach, whose impact on Panther football is immeasurable, Brooks’ achievement is even more commendable.
Indeed, it would have been difficult for any coach to fill the shoes of Goldsmith, but Brooks welcomed the pressure and hit the ground running, winning 11 games in his first year to tie the single season record. In 2006, the Panthers were temporarily ranked number one in the state and went to the second round of the state playoffs. This year’s team seems destined to make another memorable run.
Brooks began his football career at Smoky Mountain High School and went on to play in college at Western Carolina University from 1993-1997, becoming the starting quarterback his senior year. After graduation, Brooks got a job at FHS and started his coaching career on the JV level.
For five years, Brooks worked as the offensive coordinator under Head Coach Fred Goldsmith, learning under an established, proven veteran of the game.
“We thought we knew a lot about football, but after working with Coach Goldsmith, we realized that we really didn’t know much at all,” said Josh’s identical twin brother, assistant athletic director, and assistant football coach Jay Brooks. “We owe a lot to Coach Goldsmith and I know Josh is grateful for having the opportunity to learn from him.”
“Coach Goldsmith laid the foundation for a great program. We just picked up where he left off, modified a few things to fit our personnel each year, and used what he gave us,” said Josh Brooks.
Goldsmith’s career at FHS was a great time to be a Franklin Panther. The former Duke Football coach immediately made Franklin a team nobody wanted to play. Yet, while talking to the former coach, he strongly emphasized Brooks’ contributions to his coaching staff in his half-decade career at FHS.
“I already knew him before I began coaching at Franklin,” said Goldsmith. “I knew that he was a very hard worker and that he had worked his way up the ladder to be the starting quarterback at Western, so I knew he had the drive. He just has a motor about him. When I took over, I relied on him and his brother a lot. I’ve always been a defensive guy and I knew he was more offensive minded, so I was pleased to have him as our offensive coordinator. He is very knowledgeable of the west coast offense, so he didn’t have any trouble with his responsibilities calling plays. He actually called almost every single play for five years when I was coaching there. That’s why I always told people that the so-called my record was just as much his as it is was mine,” said Goldsmith.
“He also happens to be a very smart man,” Goldsmith continued. “He really knows the fundamentals of the game and his success does not surprise me at all. Of course we’ve had some really good players over the past decade. That always helps, and the continuity of his coaching staff has been very helpful to him, too.”
Franklin has been blessed with some great talent during the past decade, but an excellent team can only go so far without stellar leadership. Brooks always seems to put a competitive team together, even when Franklin’s talent is not as obvious. His ability to out coach his opponents have given the Panthers a lot of wins against teams with more talent, a true testimony to his coaching abilities.
Franklin has averaged eight wins per season during his six-year career. A football coach at any level will be hard pressed to match that level of consistency. Great players come in cycles, great coaches do not.
“He is a student of the game,” said Goldsmith. “He studies his opponents really well, and he is able to pick them apart come Friday nights.”
“A lot of teams are scared to go over and play teams like Asheville and T.C. Roberson, but we’re not,” said assistant coach Jay Brooks. “They usually do have more talent on paper, but we’ve never been afraid to play anyone, and I think that comes from Josh. He gets the most out of his players and when we play in games that we are not supposed to win, that’s when we play our best. I mean, our players just really respond to him, and I think some of that is because of his youth, but it’s also because players know that he cares.”
Players usually do take after their head coach in many respects, and that is probably why the Panthers have had so much success against more skilled opponents. Even when opposing teams have more speed and strength, Brooks and his coaching staff assemble a game plan that gives Franklin the upper hand. This year’s 20-0 shutout road victory against T.C. Roberson is one notable example.
“He did tell us that the record wasn’t about him, but we were glad we could get the win for him,” said Panthers quarterback Austin Gibson. “He is a team guy and we all know that we can compete against any team because of him. Regardless of who we play, we think we can win. We trust him. He gives us a lot of confidence and he always puts us in a position to be successful, and it felt great to win it for him,” stated Gibson.
Franklin football fans can only hope last Friday’s record breaking night will not be Brooks’ last triumph, and considering how the Panthers played against North Henderson, there should be many more victories in store for Franklin Panthers football.
“I think the record is just a milestone in his career. I foresee him staying in Franklin until he gets 150 wins. I don’t think he will leave unless a great opportunity arises, but his roots run deep here. He likes it here and I’m really proud of him,” said Goldsmith.
Franklin fans certainly hope the former NCAA coach of the year’s prediction holds true.