There was something about driving into Berwick that sent Eric Holden back to his formative years in his hometown of Lake Charles.
Holden was in town to interview for the head football coaching position at Berwick High, where on his way to the school, he had flashbacks of painted storefronts Friday nights supporting their favorite school.
It had the small-town charm that Holden was looking for when it came to support for the local high school. It was also just the opportunity he was looking for when he accepted the Berwick position, replacing Craig Brodie who resigned in February after six seasons and remains the school’s athletic director.
“It was an incredible experience for a young kid that loved football to see a whole town shut down for Friday,” Holden said. “Everyone was so passionate for football. Berwick reminded me of Lake Charles (where I lived until the age of 9). I’ve wanted to be the coach in a town where everyone comes out on Friday nights.”
Holden brings quite a playing/coaching pedigree to Berwick, which has won eight of its last 49 games, including a 3-7 record in 2015.
Holden, who moved to Baton Rouge, played for legendary coach Dale Weiner at Catholic High in Baton Rouge and has served on the staffs of Byron Dawson at Evangel Christian and Nick Mitchell at both Southern Lab and Port Allen.
Holden also served as head coach at Christian Life Academy in Baton Rouge in 2005.
“When you have great examples of professionals in front of you, as long as you’re paying attention, it’s kind of hard to mess up,” Holden said. “I’ve had such great role models. I’m the sum of all those men. I owe those guys.”
A year after serving as defensive coordinator at Southern Lab, Holden followed Mitchell to Port Allen last season. He served as defensive coordinator for the Pelicans, who reached the Class 3A state playoffs.
“I’m always looking for purpose and why God puts us through certain things,” Holden said. “When I saw this opportunity, it reminded me of Catholic High when I went there. I didn’t see it as a challenge but as an opportunity.”
Holden, who credited Brodie for a smooth transition, arrived in time to install part of his offense that he says will be balanced, along with his base defense, which will be multiple.
Berwick conducted its 10 days of spring training permitted by the LHSAA and competed in an intrasquad scrimmage that allowed Holden to pinpoint some potential play-makers within his 70-member team.
“I thought we had a pretty solid spring, and everything going in the right direction,” he said. “We wanted to ratchet up our physicality, and I thought we did that. We still got a little ways to go. The kid’s ability to learn and hunger to learn were spectacular.”
Holden said he was excited about the prospects of having wide outs — 6-foot-3 Kenan Jones and 6-5 Tysin Meads — to throw to out of his spread system along with wide receiver-running back Joe Carver.
Defensively, senior safeties Cameron Wiley and D.J. Robicheaux were standouts during the spring, he said.
“We have work that has to get done,” Holden said. “We’ve got some things we have to change and get this ship turned around and going in the right direction. I think we’ve started on a good foot.”