Haywood wins ‘Best Coach’ contest

Kyle Lovern Williamson Daily News

November 1, 2013

You can credit the Pond Creek Nation and the strong regional fan base the Belfry Pirates have. Credit may also be given to fans from other schools in the area and Pirate supporters now living in other states.

I’m sure there are many people from the Belfry area with sore fingers and thumbs from voting so many times.

The strong support helped Belfry coach Philip Haywood win the USA Today contest for the Best Coach in America.

The modest Haywood said he was “humbled and honored,” but as always he credits his assistant coaching staff and the “great players we have had over the years.”

“It’s not about me,” Haywood added.

The Pirate mentor owns the record for the most wins in history in the Bluegrass State and is one of the top active coaches in the United States for the most career victories. Haywood has been coaching at Belfry for 29 years, after spending nine years as the head coach in his hometown of Prestonsburg. His overall career record is 371-125, with two state titles in 2003-04. He has led them to eight trips to the championship game.

“This contest was about our football program, the school and the community,” Haywood said of the honor. “It is more about the area and it was nice for our little community.”

Haywood said it shows the pride in community and of the Belfry fans.

“This was good for our area and is a bright spot for this community,” the veteran coach said. “This region has had some tough economic times.”

Philip was among 408 candidates for USA Today High School Sports’ first-ever Best High School Football Coach competition. Considering the Belfry area is rural and relatively small in population, you wouldn’t think Haywood would garner as many votes as he did.

But folks need to reconsider that notion 2,332,660 votes later.

Coach Haywood posted the most votes nationally in each round, including the final round that wrapped up Tuesday. A total of 12,501,928 votes were cast throughout the competition, including more than 3 million in the final round. Haywood received 1,529,789 votes in the final round, holding off a late-charging Kevin Lynott, of Middletown, Md., who came in second with 1,311,825 votes in the national round.

Haywood first won the contest for the state of Kentucky and then advanced in the regional competition as Belfry Pirate fans continued to cast vote after vote. Word got out through the media and on social networks like Facebook and that helped spread the word.

“We have a team saying and this fits in with it well,” Haywood concluded. “We tell our team, ‘It’s not about me, it’s not about you, it is about us.’ I think that is what our community feels about the football program and that is what this is about.”

The Belfry athletic department will receive $2,000 for Haywood’s victory and a banner. Second through fifth places will also receive cash prizes for the athletic departments: second ($1,000), third ($500), fourth ($250) and fifth ($100). All eight finalists receive banners for their schools.