For a school that’s only as old as Titanic, Butler (Matthews, N.C.) has made quite a name for itself on the North Carolina high school football scene.
The Bulldogs’ ever-expanding reputation is thanks in large part of the work of Mike Newsome.
When the school opened its doors in 1997, Newsome was the team’s defensive coordinator, a position he held for five seasons before becoming head coach before the 2002 season.
Newsome managed nearly 11 wins on average at the Bulldogs’ helm and sent numerous players to Division I colleges. He made Butler consistently successful around Charlotte, but came up short in the chase for a state title.
It so happened that Newsome took over Butler during one of the most dominant reigns in high school football history, as nearby rival Independence was in the early stages of its 109-game winning streak, as well as its run of seven straight state titles.
Enter the 2009 season.
From start to finish, it was a dream year for the Bulldogs. Butler opened with a 35-14 victory over Mt. Tabor, and followed up with a 54-3 drubbing of Vance, a school that opened the same year at Butler. The next week, Butler downed defending state champion Richmond 38-31.
By then, there were already signs the 2009 rendition of the Bulldogs could be special. Butler rolled through most of its regular-season schedule nearly unchallenged until its Nov. 6 showdown with Independence. In a matchup with so much pregame hype that tickets were being sold on Ebay, Newsome led Butler into enemy territory and the Bulldogs won a road game against Independence for the first time ever.
That win was historic for the Butler program, and helped cement its status as a program to be reckoned with not only in North Carolina but nationwide.
Despite public proclamations by Independence head coach Tom Knotts that his team would not lose to Butler a second time, the Bulldogs made an even louder statement in the 4A-II semifinals, blasting the Patriots 38-14.
One week later, Newsome and his Butler squad laid any remaining doubts to rest, as they dismantled Britt 48-17, capping a 15-0 season, one of the finest in state history.
It also helped Newsome earn the distinction of MaxPreps National Coach of the Year.
Newsome won the award over three other outstanding coaches, Greg Toal (Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.), Chad Morris (Lake Travis, Austin, Texas) and Steve Warren (Abilene, Texas).
MaxPreps Medium School Coach of the Year — Gary Rankin, Alcoa (Tenn.), 15-0
Rankin led Alcoa to its sixth straight Tennessee 3A state championship, the fourth under his reign, and a 15-0 record for the first time in 10 years thanks to a 21-0 win over previously unbeaten Milan. Alcoa is now tied with Maryville with the most state championships in school history with 11 and Rankin has won eight as a coach — four at Alcoa and four at Riverdale.
MaxPreps Small School Coach of the Year — John Wilkinson, Cocoa (Fla.), 14-0
Wilkinson led Cocoa to its second straight Florida 2A championship and defeated some pretty impressive teams along the way. Along with a 41-3 win over eventual 1A state champion American Heritage (Delray Beach) to start the season, Cocoa also defeated eventual 2B champion Bolles 44-37. In the 2A state finals, Cocoa defeated a highly-regarded Glades Central (which had defeated 4A state champion Dwyer earlier in the season), 27-13.
Kevin Askeland contributed to this story.