West Lincoln football searching for next head coach after Bland steps aside

Published 2:00 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

After a season that involved some serious health complications, West Lincoln head football coach Brad Bland is stepping down from his position at the school.

“I spent about two weeks in Jackson at Baptist Hospital, dealing with fluid buildup that was making it hard for me to breath,” said Bland. “I missed our game against Wilkinson County and then watched from the press box against Loyd Sar and then I was out again against Amite County.”

He’s not planning on being done with coaching football for good, but Bland wants to focus on improving his health while he looks for other opportunities. He’s down 80 pounds from the time when he first started feeling ill.

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“I feel much better today, but being a head coach of your own program is very demanding. I’ve got some feelers out with my coaching friends as I look for my next opportunity,” said Bland. “I still love being around the kids and seeing them work hard while enjoying the game.”

Bland was hired in 2019 after previously being on the staff for two years as a line coach and defensive coordinator for former head coach BJ Smithhart. When Smithhart was hired at Franklin County, Bland was promoted to the head position at West Lincoln.

Together Smithhart and Bland helped West Lincoln make history as the Bears hosted the first and only playoff game in school history in 2017, a 54-20 loss to Bay Springs.

West Lincoln began playing football in 1998 and Bland will end his time tied with Willie Brumfield with most career wins for a coach at the school with 12. Bland went 12-39 and took the Bears to the playoffs in 2019 and 2020. He’s also the longest tenured coach in program history with five seasons leading the team at Flea Hop.

That 2019 team finished 5-7 and had wins over Enterprise and Loyd Star on the way to a fourth placed finish in Region 7-2A. The 2020 squad also beat EAC and Loyd Star and came in third in Region 7-2A by getting the first win in program history over Amite County, a 20-18 road win in Liberty.

With much of the roster returning for 2021, expectations were high for another postseason bid, but West Lincoln finished 0-9 and then went 0-10 in 2022.

This season the Bears broke their losing streak with a 40-26 win over Salem. They also got a 15-14 victory over Sylva-Bay Academy to finish 2-8.

Bland has also served as the powerlifting coach at West Lincoln during his time at the school. In 2019, West Lincoln offensive lineman Grant Jackson made history by signing with Mississippi State, the first Division I signee in school history.

A graduate of Wesson who played on the offensive line at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Bland had previous coaching stops at Winona High School and Alexander Junior High prior to his arrival at West Lincoln.

When Bland was hired at West Lincoln, Smithhart told The Daily Leader that his former assistant coach would, “always put the kids first.”

Bland hopes that legacy is one that he’s known for after West Lincoln moves on to its next coaching staff.

“I’ve always tried to make decisions that were best for my players,” said Bland. “They were ultimately who I want to make happy. When I told them about this decision, I let them know that when we get back from Thanksgiving Break in a week, we’d start lifting and running in our off-season program and we’d keep that up until the new coach comes along. I want to leave the program in the best shape I can because being the head coach here has meant a lot to me over these last five years.”