Ten miles away from where he learned his craft, this NC football coach rebuilds a legend

Special to The Observer

This week’s Deer Park North Carolina coach of the week is Burlington Williams’ Patrick Stokes. Stokes was hired in the summer of 2021, taking over a program that hadn’t posted a winning record in seven years.

Williams was a 3A power in the 1980s and 1990s, going to six state championships, winning four. In 2005, Williams lost to Charlotte Catholic in the N.C. 3A state championship game.

But starting with the 2007 season, things began to change. The Bulldogs had four consecutive losing seasons followed by years where the team struggled to manage a .500 record. Burlington Williams needed a rebuild.

Stokes quickly turned things around.

In 2021, his first team at Williams went 7-5. In 2022, his second, won eight games.

His third — coming off Friday’s 36-35 win against rival Eastern Alamance — is on pace to top that.

“I think there are really three components that go into it,” Stokes said. “One is getting the kids interested and increasing the interest in football. Getting these kids involved and giving them a purpose to want to be a part of the team. The second phase is developing them once they are here. Making sure we give them confidence in the weight room and academically so that they are eligible. Also, we want to get their families involved. The third part is assembling a staff that can take those kids and and implement a game plan for Friday night.”

Stokes took over the Bulldogs’ program after spending 18 years at Eastern Alamance. He served as the defensive coordinator under Eagles coach John Kirby.

“I have a lot of love and respect for the Eastern Alamance community,” Stokes said. “It was home for me and my family for many years. Working for Coach Kirby taught me an awful lot about how to manage your football team and how to inspire young men to be their best. And, I think that is what I am trying to do here at Williams High School.”

Stokes said playing his old school last week wasn’t that difficult. He said he was focused on his team now, and not the past.

“It was great to beat an in-county team and a conference team,” Stokes said. “But, I don’t necessarily think that my past relationship with Eastern Alamance had any bearings on Friday night’s contest at all. I am just proud of my guys and the way they were able to get over the hump because Eastern Alamance had dominated the conference for many years. The win Friday night was very big for our program.”

The Bulldogs have an experienced team with 20 seniors. With the playoffs in sight, Stokes is making sure his players don’t get ahead of themselves.

“Well, there is a lot of excitement around the team,” Stokes said. “We do have a big game this week against Western Alamance and it is another in-county game. It’s a heated rivalry with them located just a few miles down the road. So, for us that is all we are focused on right now. Obviously, every team has the goal in the state of North Carolina to make the playoffs. That has definitely been one of the goals for us. But, we are process-driven. So, if we approach every day like we are supposed to and like champions do, the outcome will take care of itself.”

2023 coach of the week honorees

Week 1: Kennedy Tinsley, Mallard Creek

Week 2: Ben Kolstad, Leesville Road

Week 3: Brandon Gentry, Hopewell

Week 4: Andrew Farriss, Northern Nash

Week 5: Sam Greiner, West Charlotte

Week 6: Patrick Stokes, Burlington Williams