Think championship level football in District 6-3A. The first vision you get is probably one of University High playing Parkview Baptist in the Division II select title game last December.
The district had two teams in a title game and a third, West Feliciana, finish as a Class 3A semifinalist.
Can Marc Brown and Nick Mitchell help take 6-3A to yet another level? The possibility certainly exists.
Brown is the first-year head coach at Brusly High. Last season, he was the offensive coordinator for 3A state champion Livonia. Mitchell, the first-year Port Allen coach, led Southern Lab to a Division IV runner-up finish last December.
“That experience alone is huge,” Brown said of his season at Livonia. “The level of coaching and level of the ball increases every week, and having that experience was great. You can’t compare it to anything else.”
The two coaches share another bond. Both accepted jobs at other schools before landing their current jobs. Brown worked as head coach of East Iberville through the spring, while Mitchell was the associate head coach/wide receivers coach at East St. John.
The chance to coach at their respective community-based schools in West Baton Rouge Parish was a draw neither could resist.
Brown was a Brusly assistant from 2012-2013 and said the familiarity with the school and community was big reason for his return.
“I just felt like it was a good fit,” Brown said. “I live here. I knew the kids, and I felt like it was a great situation.”
As a graduate of Destrehan, Mitchell said the Port Allen community reminded him of his alma mater and several other small, rural towns where football is a priority.
“Football and community go hand-in-hand,” Mitchell said. “Friday nights everybody is in the stadium, most of the businesses are closed down. They’re looking forward to watching their local young men get on the football field and do special things.”
As a first-time head coach, Brown said the biggest difference from being a coordinator is paying attention to both sides of the ball.
“I was just always worried about the offense,” Brown said. “Looking at the overall aspect of it and paying more attention to the defense and special teams, it’s just a little bit more on your plate in all aspects of it. But it’s a great challenge, and it’s fun.”
Brown said he is working to increase his numbers by recruiting more players to his squad.
“The biggest challenge is getting kids back out, getting the ones that we know can play football and help the program,” Brown said.
Mitchell said a positive culture of Port Allen for helping ease his transition as the Pelicans head coach succeeding Guy Blanchard, who led the Pelicans to a quarterfinal berth in 2011.
“Challenges are right now at a minimum for us, simply because we have willing participants within our program,” Mitchell said. “Our young men are very resilient, but they’re very humble at the same time. They take coaching very well. They’re really great students and good people, and I think that’s a cultural positive for us at Port Allen.”
Mitchell plans to use a similar blueprint at Port Allen to the one he implemented at Southern Lab while guiding the Kittens to a 31-23 record.
“Right now we’re not attempting to just be average,” Mitchell said. “As a coach who’s coached in that game and had the opportunity to step foot on the Superdome floor, it becomes a passion. That’s the only thing that you want, as far as your final destination as a coach every year.”
Both embrace the tough 6-3A lineup that includes Division II champion U-High, runner-up Parkview and West Feliciana.
“It’s a great, competitive district,” Brown said. “It’s good ball as far as the athletes, and the coaching is good. Every Friday night is a challenge. It prepares you for playoffs. You get in the playoffs and the speed of the game doesn’t change much because you’ve played the best of the best.”
“In those types of games, you have to really be able to dig deep and find yourself within that particular moment,” Mitchell adds. “Those adverse situations give you a perspective of who you are.”