Brackett Eager to Get East Back into the Winning Bracket - TribPapers

Brackett Eager to Get East Back into the Winning Bracket

New East Henderson head football coach Colton Brackett, at left, speaks with Eagle players at his reception. They include returning starting linemen Colten Riddle, at left wearing a green jacket, Gabe Jones in the grey muscle shirt at center, and Caleb Walker in the grey hoodie at right. Noah Beddingfield is wearing a ballcap. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

East Flat Rock – East Henderson Eagle alumnus Colton Brackett returns to rule the roost with intelligence and enthusiasm, after a successful decade of coaching track stars and football receivers at 4A power T.C. Roberson.

“I’m excited” about coaching at his 3A alma mater, bubbly Brackett told the Tribune at his open house reception in East’s media center on June 13. The 2010 East alumnus calls this his “dream job,” which he will fill with “passion and drive.” He started on Monday, meeting with assistant coaches.

Brackett is a proud Eagle alumnus. “If I cut my arm right now, I’ll bleed greener (East’s main color) than anyone else,” he told rising senior players in their first meeting. He urged them, “I want you to be a brick in the foundation that’s to come.” His father-in-law, Tim Griffin, is the Eagle game announcer and also intensely pro-East.

Brackett told the Tribune, “I’ll trust my instincts” as a first-time head football coach. “We’ll build with guys who want to be in our program.” East is mired in a 4-33 slump over four years. Predecessor Bobby James lasted two years.

Young Yet Experienced

Brackett, at 31, is hailed as the state’s second highest head football coach. Yet he already has 11 years of football coaching experience. He started as a 19-year-old Western Carolina University student. He was a walk-on middle distance Catamount runner.

He coached East receivers as a volunteer assistant to then-head coach Brett Chappell for three years — lastly after graduating from WCU in spring of 2014. Brackett coached Roberson receivers and (typically 110) track athletes for the past eight years, since 2015-16. “We took pride in being the best darn receiving group in the mountains,” Brackett said. This spring, male runners crushed TCR’s 4×800 relay time by a whopping four seconds.

Brackett has handled the football staff’s higher-tech aspects, tracking player statistics and publishing weekly media guides for each game. He said he will do that for East, too.

Energetic, Personable

Brackett is praised by many as very positive-minded, a tireless worker who expects much but who is a somewhat milder-natured version of coaches he played for and coached under.

“My coaching style is having my love for the sport on display — with energy, passion, and eagerness to get better every day. A team reflects leadership. I take pride in making anything that has my name on it the best it can be.” He added, “I want that energy to be contagious — around campus. My foundation is developing great young men.”

Humor helps him “engage” with players, he said. “I’ll be silly at times. All of these kids will have nicknames” to boost team spirit. As an East student, he was simply called by his initials of C.B.

Brackett flashed humor when jesting that in track, “we’re not trying to tackle each other running — though that’d be fun.” He can apply his head coaching in track to the gridiron. “What’s the same is everything has to be earned. Our track athletes had talent, and they worked at it. You must have an aggressive mentality—at the start time of the race, or when you get off the ball in football.”

Stronger Eagles

East principal Brandon Scott hired Brackett to balance creating a positive culture with being tough and demanding enough. Allen sees Brackett as a “coachable and accountable” role model who works out with weights himself. His Eagle heritage is a major bonus.

Brackett will also be East’s strength and conditioning coach. He will teach weightlifting. He is a stickler for extensive strength training — just like Jason Dinwiddie, TCR’s head coach and line coach.

Brackett told the Tribune, “These guys will have nine months in the weight room. For the program to be successful and take steps forward, we have to fall in love with progress in the weight room. It’s imperative.”

The Eagle line should be stronger with a nucleus of returning players bound to grow. Gabe Jones, Colton Riddle, and Caleb Walker started in 2022 as freshmen two-way linemen. They spoke to the Tribune at Coach Brackett’s reception.

Jones said that “we’ll help carry the team on our (broad) backs.” The center said that “much goes into” training, and he sees results in strength and agility. He is thankful that Brackett “knows our community.” Riddle said, “We’re ready to win!”

Potential returnees also include athletic junior runner Seth McCarson, junior safety Leland “Pick Six” Prutzman, senior quarterback Joe Justice, senior defensive end Jayden Borne, and huge senior linemen Jacob Capps and Wyatt Nabers.
“I want to give everybody a fair shot” to start, and to “treat them the same,” Brackett said. But he will also customize coaching, to “find out their strengths and point out their weaknesses.” Brackett said he will lean on assistants’ suggestions to determine best schemes and “go with what we’re comfortable with.” But he has a preference for the offense. “My philosophy is a spread, a zone (quick-passing) attack — as we did with Brody” Whitson as the TCR quarterback. “If we can be physical enough down the road, we can do more of a running attack.”

Gentler Rattling

Brackett is the first Eagle alumni in ages to be the school’s varsity head football coach. He played in East’s golden era of the 2000s under intense taskmaster Chappell, who since 2013 has coached Pisgah. Coach Chappell retains a fondness for East, reflected in his eagerly speaking with the Tribune over the years about Eagle progress.

Brackett said that like Chappell, he expects each Eagle to “do his role.” Chappell’s nickname is “Rattlesnake,” Brackett revealed with a grin. He recalls his mentor slyly warning that “rattlesnakes strike — and you’re going to know (feel) it.”

Brackett is grateful that Coach Chappell “believed in me,” as a player and later as an East assistant. “I look up to him.” He joked to Chappell about being 1-0 against him after TCR beat Pisgah in a scrimmage last summer.

East plays at Pisgah on Oct. 20, a week after hosting North Henderson in a huge local rivalry game. East’s opener is Aug. 18 at North Buncombe, which Brackett knows as a TCR league foe. East edged NBHS 28-24 a season ago. East then has three straight home contests — versus resurgent Andrews, Hendersonville (HHS), then Owen in a more winnable game. Brackett embraces the underdog role. “I want (other) people to doubt us. We’ll make an impact.”

Michael Robinson, a star Eagle runner, provides continuity as an East assistant coach. “We go way back,” Brackett said of Robinson, a senior in their superb 2008 season. Another assistant, Dominque Whiteside, knows what it takes to win as he did with Hendersonville then Coastal Carolina.

Brackett started as an East senior receiver in 2009. In 2008, the Eagles were 13-2. They were unbeaten in winning the conference, and won three playoff games. East was 9-5 in 2004, 10-3 in ‘05 and 2010, and 8-4 in 2011. The Eagles (11-2) were unbeaten league champs again and won 11 straight in 2012, Chappell’s Eagle finale.

Coach Brackett is eager to steadily resurrect East and burst through Chappell’s thick shadow over E.L. Justus Field. Brackett said, “East is Colton Brackett now.”