Brownstown’s May eclipses 300 wins in 2023 season


Already the proud owner of a career packed with memorable moments, Brownstown Central’s Reed May added a rare and iconic coaching milestone to his collection during the just-completed high school football season.

On a mild night in October, the Braves defeated Indianapolis Scecina 56-27 in the opening round of the postseason tournament, securing the 300th victory of May’s 31-year career. He became one of just five active coaches in the state with 300 wins. All-time, only 12 Indiana football coaches have reached that level.

The landmark win was made sweeter by coming earlier than expected. In 2022, the Braves finished with an uncharacteristic 6-5 record. May needed nine wins to reach 300, which seemed too ambitious for a 2023 team that planned to rely on a group of sophomores to fill in lineup holes left by departing seniors.

Instead, May’s team jelled rapidly and ended the regular season with an 8-1 record, setting up the opportunity to reach the milestone in the tournament.

The accelerated success enhanced May’s enjoyment of the accomplishment. His recently ailing father, Phillip, and his daughter, Rylee, a senior at Brownstown Central whose college plans include potentially distant options, were in attendance and took part in the post-game celebration.

“I was glad we achieved it this year for my dad and my daughter,” May said.

A few weeks removed from the event, May said reaching the mark was satisfying professionally but also a reminder of the collective effort necessary to achieve it.

“Coaching all of these years, you’re aware that records and numbers are out there. But during the season, you’re just getting ready for each game. Three hundred was something I wanted to achieve and getting there is a great, but it’s not only my achievement. It’s great for our coaches, our community and our current and previous players, too,” May said.

In other words, No. 300 was a program win.

When May arrived in 1993, Brownstown’s football program was in need of a rebuild. In 1992, the Braves were winless. In 1991, they had managed just two wins. In the 10 seasons prior to May’s arrival, BC went 22-69, were shut out 27 times and were held under 10 points in 50 of 91 games.

May was an assistant coach at Perry Meridian in 1992 when he heard Brownstown Central was searching for a new head coach. Though he and BC were destined for each other, the likelihood of a match at the time was low.

May said by 1992, he had interviewed unsuccessfully for nearly two dozen high school head coaching jobs in Indiana. He felt his résumé was strong after playing at Michigan State and Arizona and then coaching at Arizona, Murray State (under head coach Frank Beamer), Western Illinois and Franklin College.

Throw in a four-year run as offensive coordinator at Owensboro High School in Kentucky and May thought his qualifications were airtight.

“I couldn’t get anything,” he said. “I was crushed. I’m thinking, ‘What the heck am I doing wrong here?’ I was really frustrated.”

Dave Enright, then the head coach at Perry Meridian and a trusted mentor, offered an explanation.

“He said, ‘Here’s what’s wrong with you, Reed,’” May said. “‘One, you’ve been a college coach, so you’ve got too much experience, which can hurt you. Two, you’re out of state (nearly all of May’s coaching experience was in Arizona, Kentucky and Illinois). Three, you’re not in the classroom.’ At Owensboro, my job was in-school suspension and handling troublesome students. In other words, I wasn’t teaching. ‘Fourth, you’re single, young and good-looking. That scares people.’”

Enright helped May get back in-state with the assistant job at Perry Meridian, which included a chance to move into the classroom. He wasn’t in a position to remedy his marital status, but the in-state high school job seemed to mitigate the concerns about his out-of-state college experience.

Hopeful, May applied and interviewed for the Brownstown job. Despite growing up less than an hour away in Bloomington, he said he had never heard of Brownstown.

“I’d never been here and never heard of it,” May said. “By this point, I had learned to research the job. I came early to the interview and drove around. The town was beautiful. I thought, ‘They have a lot of pride in this community. It’s a one-school town and the whole community would be behind us.’ It’s a small school, which I liked.”

May’s research extended to football matters. He called coaching buddies and acquaintances and inquired about his prospects at Brownstown.

“They were high on the program,” May said. “They said Brownstown has great athletes, who for some reason don’t play football. If you can get those kids to play football, they could have a great feeder program.”

The team’s weight room was a concern, however.

“The weight room was under the old concrete stadium and it was terrible,” May said. “When it rained, it leaked. I actually wasn’t sure I wanted the job because the facilities were bad.”

But May learned a new weight room facility was in the works, which was enough to convince him that the school was serious about its football program. When the job was offered, he accepted.

May quickly got to work on his first task: Getting the hold-out athletes to play football. During his previous coaching stints, he had temporarily stepped away from the gridiron to take a sales job. He now leaned on those skills to sell Brownstown’s athletes on his vision for the football team.

“In my first year, I got lucky,” May said. “There were three seniors, Michael Davidson, Jeremy Foster and Jason Watson, who had not played football since middle school, and they came out.”

The trio liked what the new coach was offering. Davidson became May’s first quarterback, Foster won the team’s MVP award and Watson was a key two-way player.

“We won five games that year,” May said of his first season. “We went 5-4, and everyone in town thought we were the greatest thing since sliced bread after not winning for two years. We haven’t had a losing year since.”

Brownstown Central has become well-known for its vaunted running attack under May, but the new head coach’s original plan was to pass the ball using the offense he learned under Red Faught at Franklin College.

“In our first game, we threw the ball all over the place against Springs Valley, who was really good at the time, and we nearly beat them,” May said. “But in our second game against Clarksville, they blitzed us big time, and we couldn’t complete a pass. It was terrible.”

Sitting on an 0-2 record, May searched for an answer and stumbled upon a Wing-T concept embedded in Faught’s playbook that would evolve into the wildly successful offense that began the march to 300 victories.

“In our third game, we played Corydon, and at halftime, it was close,” May said. “In the second half, we ran one play the whole half. We went unbalanced, ran the same play over and over and won the game.”

Intrigued, May researched the Wing-T offense and during spring break traveled to South Dakota State, which at the time ran the college game’s premier Wing-T offense.

“It was frickin’ snowing, it was cold as all get out and I was outside watching them practice,” May remembered with a laugh.

May and his assistants attended camps and clinics to learn about the offense and fully committed to it the following season.

“It’s an unusual offense,” May said. “It gives you angles. You can use small offensive linemen. It gave us an advantage over our opponents because no one else was running it. With our personnel, it gave us the greatest opportunity to win.”

The Braves averaged 18 points in May’s first season, then leapt to a 32-point average in 1994. Of his next 29 teams, 25 averaged more than 30 points per game. In May’s 364 games, the Braves have been shut out only one time (a 53-0 loss to Paoli in 1997). Eleven BC teams have scored greater than 40 points per game with the 2013 squad posting a program-best average of 49.1 points.

The 2016 team scored a school-record 660 points in 14 games and reached the Final Four (falling to Lawrenceburg in a heartbreaking 41-40 semistate loss). The hyperproductive offenses have been complemented by highly effective defenses. After recording a single shutout in the 10 years before May’s hiring, the Braves’ defenses have registered 44 shutouts and kept opponents under 10 points a total of 127 times over the last 31 seasons.

In 2014, BC’s defense allowed just 99 points in 11 games.

Pairing potent offenses with stingy defenses, the wins started stacking up for May and the Braves.

BC followed its five-win season in 1993 with an 8-3 record in ’94. In Year 3, the Braves jumped to 11-1 and won their first sectional title. Another 11-win season followed in 1996. Between 1999 and 2004, Brownstown won 54 consecutive regular-season games.

“Once we won five games, all of a sudden, more kids wanted to play football,” May said. “We’re tough on them, but the kids we have here in Brownstown remind me so much of when I was growing up in Bloomington. We had hardworking, blue-collar kids, and that’s what these kids here remind me of. They do exactly what we ask. They bust their tails. They have great parental support. Our kids are dedicated and disciplined. All of that helped us to be successful.”

During his tenure at Brownstown, May’s teams have produced 12 undefeated regular seasons, 18 seasons with double-digit wins and 21 Mid-Southern Conference titles.

The regular-season success extended into the postseason. BC has a 61-31 tournament record with 13 sectional titles and three regional titles since 1993.

Meanwhile, milestone wins quickly streamed by. Win No. 50 came in May’s 60th game in 1998 against West Washington. Just 56 games later, he celebrated his 100th victory after the Braves defeated Corydon early in the 2003 season. With his program now in full beast mode, May reached No. 200 with a win over Salem in 2013 and knocked down No. 250 vs. Charlestown in 2018, officially starting the countdown to 300.

Asked to name his favorite or most memorable wins, May responded as only a coach can.

“Unfortunately, the losses stick with you longer than the wins,” he said. “Obviously, the first win, Corydon, that was a milestone. Every sectional championship was a big game. Beating Indian Creek (11 times during sectionals) was always special. The regional games we won were big. Southridge in the mud (in 2004) was a big win. But ironically, it’s more the losses that you remember. Even though you win 300 games, it’s the 64 losses that haunt you more than anything else.”

The painful semistate defeats account for the most glaring omission on May’s otherwise impressive résumé: The Braves have never reached a state final game.

“Obviously, we haven’t won a state title,” May lamented. “That’s important to me. I’d like to win one, obviously. It seems like we’ve been beaten by so many state championship teams in the tournament. It’s just tough to win it.”

Indeed, Brownstown has lost to the eventual state champ or the runner-up eight times.

Despite the elusiveness of that ultimate goal, the achievements of BC’s football program have been noticed. May has been named Coach of the Week by the Indianapolis Colts five times. In August, he was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.

And schools from around the state have come calling when they’ve needed to fill their head coaching positions. The coach who couldn’t get hired became sought after as Brownstown’s success grew.

Bloomington South especially made several pushes to land its 1974 alum, particularly in the early 2000s after the departure of its coach, Mo Moriarty, who May counts as one of his best friends. May said the Jeffersonville and North Central jobs were also alluring early on but never became serious options thanks to advice he received and the fact that life happened while he was coaching.

“The first time (Bloomington South called), Mo Moriarty had just left, and I didn’t want to follow a legend,” May said. “Later (in 2004), they came after me hard, but I’d just gotten engaged to Joann. We were getting married in July. We were looking at buying a house. I thought about returning to Bloomington. My mom and dad were there. But I decided I didn’t want to leave. I’ve learned that the grass is not always greener at big schools. And this (Brownstown Central) has turned into a great job.”

May credits Joann, Rylee, youngest daughter Emme and stepdaughter Kayla Guthrie for influencing not only his decision to remain in Brownstown but how he approaches the job itself. Incidentally, all current and future BC players are grateful for their influence.

“People always tell me how tough I am now, but back then, I was a jerk,” May said. “I’ve softened with three girls at home, being married, being older. I’ve definitely softened.”

The most frequent question the 67-year-old May gets asked these days, he said, is when he plans to step down.

“Everybody’s asking me when I’m going to retire,” he said. “Emme is a sixth-grader, and she wants me to coach until she gets out of high school. I really don’t have any hobbies. I don’t hunt, fish or play golf. I get up every day at 4 or 4:30 a.m. and work on football. This is my hobby. As long as I’m healthy, I don’t see any reason to retire.”

May is currently 12th among the all-time winningest head coaches in state history. Moriarty, his close friend, sits at No. 11 with 305 wins.

Assuming he honors his daughter’s request to coach through her high school graduation, May will continue his climb up the list. With another six years of coaching, he would likely approach the top five.

Sheridan’s Larry Wright, amazingly entering his 60th year as a head coach, tops the list with an out-of-reach 457 wins.

“There’s no way anyone is going to catch him,” May said with a chuckle. “Being No. 12 on the list is pretty good. How many more wins can we get? I have no idea. But being in the top 12, that’s something to be proud of, not only for me but for our whole community and our whole football program.”

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