High school football: Patient Billings gets head coach job

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 18, 2021

By Mike London

TYRO — Tyro, home of West Davidson High, has embraced former South Rowan standout Brian Billings, who still lives in rural Rowan County.

Billings, 38, a long-time assistant coach for the Green Dragons, was tapped last week for head coach job at West Davidson. He follows Bryan Lingerfelt, a highly respected coach, who is retiring.

Billings has been part of the staff at West Davidson since 2010. He liked the athletes, liked the administrators and liked the work environment, so there was never any sense of urgency about moving on to greener pastures. His patience was rewarded. Now he’ll get to be a head coach at his adopted home.

“Tyro is a one-stoplight town,” Billings said. “Very much like China Grove, only smaller. There are a ton of good people here. And we’ve got kids that will work hard and play hard.”

Billings was a burly offensive lineman for South Rowan back in the late 1990s, the days when Rick Vanhoy was head coach of the Raiders. Billings graduated from South in 2000 and was good enough at blocking people to continue his playing career at Appalachian State.

In 2004, he helped out at South Rowan, his first coaching assignment.

Then, he headed back to Boone with the goal of finishing up academically. He remembers the day in 2005 that altered the path of his life.

“I wanted to finish up my teacher certification at Appalachian State, but my financial aid had fallen through and I was sitting there in Boone, eating lunch and getting ready to go back home,” Billings said. “I wasn’t sure what was coming next, but that’s when I got a call from Mark Woody.”

Woody was going to be the head coach at Carson and was putting his first staff together.

Billings would join him for four seasons. Carson was 0-for-22 in 2006 and 2007, but by 2009, the Cougars were good.

“I got experience in the classroom as an EC teacher at Carson and gained a lot of football knowledge,” Billings said. “And I was able to finish my teacher certification by going to school part-time at Pfeiffer.”

Billings got to know the West Davidson folks — former Athletic Director Charles Elmore and former football coaches Barry Mitchem and Dale Barnes, among others — through football clinics. Billings asked them to keep him in mind if there was ever an opening. They didn’t forget him. Billings made the move across the river in 2010.

It’s not that far. Take the Swicegood Road shortcut, and Tyro is just 19 minutes from Salisbury.

Billings got married and started a family. His son is 8 now. He also has a 2-year-old daughter.

Time moved on. Billings established himself as head track and field coach at West Davidson and became an integral part of the football staffs.

In recent years, he’s assisted Lingerfelt on the football field, while Lingerfelt has assisted Billings in track.

Now it’s Billings’ turn to lead the football program.

“When they tell you that you’re the head football coach, it’s an honor and it’s really exciting for about 5 seconds,” Billings said. “But then you start thinking about all the things that you need to take care of.”

The Green Dragons know all about the coaching transition, but Billings hasn’t had a chance to meet with the players yet.

“It’s not a secret — they’ve all heard it through the grapevine,” Billings said. “I’ll meet with our players this week or next. I’m meeting with our middle school kids, as well. Just letting those kids know what we’re doing and when we’re doing it, making sure they know about when to get their physicals and things like that.”

Billings plans to continue coaching track. That season is in full swing. He can’t completely devote himself to football until track finishes in June.

Then it will be time to start making plans to compete in the new 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference this fall. The revised CCC will include West Davidson, Lexington, East Davidson, Thomasville, South Davidson, Salisbury and North Rowan.

West Davidson football was 2-5 in 2021, with victories against Lexington and East Davidson.

“The big schools in our current league — Ledford, Oak Grove, North Davidson — they’re all going up to 3A,” Billings said. “We know we’ll still have some uphill battles, but the great thing about high school football is that on any Friday night, it can bounce your way.”