Thad Wells took Blacksburg on a magical run this year that included winning the state championship in Williamsburg two weeks ago. For his efforts, Wells is the News Messenger’s 2016 high school football coach of the year.
In two seasons, he has turned around a program that had not seen a playoff run in four years. That first season, the Bruins finished 6-5.
Wells was optimistic for this season and called it his first second year in seven years as he had coached at four different schools during that time. He came to Blacksburg after spending one season as the head coach at Colton Prep Academy in South Carolina where he finished 6-4 with a postseason appearance.
He played football at Emory & Henry College after graduating from Richlands High School and served as assistant at both Richlands and Virginia High. In the second job, he served as the offensive coordinator at Virginia High under a head coach with the name of Michael Crist.
When Michael’s dad retired at Blacksburg, he was quick to apply for the job. He knew it would be tough to follow in the footsteps of longtime coach Dave Crist. But very quickly, he has made his own mark at the school.
He labeled this year’s team and season as being very special. “No matter how long I coach, I will never forget this team,” he said.
The Richlands High School graduate led the team to the state semi-finals as a quarterback and free safety, and he has credited that experience in helping him become a coach.
Wells was also honored as the conference, regional and 2016 3A coach of the year.
At the mid-season mark Wells and his fellow coaches made some major adjustments, and it might have been those changes that jumpstarted them on their march to a title.
“The biggest factor was the players buying into what we changed. Without that we don’t accomplish what we did,” Wells said shortly after his team won the state championship.
Wells would be the first to say this team was young but they came together and matured very quickly. “Watching this team grow was one of the best experiences of my life to this point. They believed in each other every week and became an amazing team,” he said.
Next season, the school moves up in classification thanks to an increase in its total enrollment numbers, thus the face of the playoffs will change with the likes of defending state 4A champion, Salem.