In recent searches for a head football coach, Brighton hired coaches from within.
This time around the administration chose somebody from outside of the program.
The man they chose is Morgan Cruce and he was introduced to the team Thursday morning He gave a speech to his players in the gym and shook hands with each one individually after that.
“I told the kids when I got done with his interview I wanted to put pads on and play,” said Brighton athletic director Brian Crowson. “He had me excited. Everybody we interviewed was strong with Xs and Os, but we were looking for that fit, that factor to move Brighton football to the next level.”
Cruce, 36, has an extensive coaching resume. He was an assistant at Union City for four years and was part of that program’s first state title in 2009. Cruce served as Gibson County’s head coach for four seasons after that before serving as a head coach at a private school in Little Rock for two seasons. After that he was an assistant at Bethel University for three years, the last as offensive coordinator. Last season he was the offensive coordinator for Henry County, which averaged 44 points per game in the playoffs and advanced to the Class 5A semifinals.
As a player at Obion County in the early 2000s, he played against Brighton every season and is very familiar with the program historically and currently.
“I knew what kind of potential Brighton has,” Cruce said. “I knew that it was a great mixture of kids who are hungry and I felt like I’d be able to come in here and take it to the next level, make it a perennial contender for the region championship and hopefully make deep playoff runs that end in Chattanooga.”
Crowson said about 25 coaches applied for the job and a five-person panel that included teachers, administrators and former players interviewed nine candidates.
“I won’t say we were going into it saying we were only going to hire from the outside because we had two guys interview who have been a part of Brighton football,” Crowson said. “We were looking for the best fit.”
Brighton went 6-5 last year and lost in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. The offense scored a lot of points, but the defense struggled, allowing more than 50 points in a game five times. Cruce describes himself as an offensive-minded coach, though he was the defensive coordinator for one season at Union City.
He acknowledged that Brighton’s defense needs to improve.
“I’ve watched some film on them scouting last year,” he said. “Just looking on film, things that I’ve seen are things that are easily fixed. I think how we’ll address that is how we handle things in the offseason. We’re going to develop a mental edge and a sense of toughness and physicality that is going to allow us to be an even better defensive team.”
Cruce said there could be some changes made to the coaching staff.
“I definitely have some people in mind if that’s available.”
Brighton has made the playoffs four out of the past six seasons. The Cardinals’ best year came in 2017 when they advanced to the state semifinals under head coach Robin Jacobs.
Cruce said he is excited to coach in Class 5A. His two previous head coaching jobs were in much smaller classifications.
“After spending time at Henry County I definitely love the 5A classification. I believe that in 5A, year in and year out, you don’t have an Alcoa, an Oakland a Maryville. I believe it’s a very competitive classification that allows for anybody to make it as far as they can make it … You’ve got athletic, hungry, football-savvy kids at a school like Brighton. That’s definitely an appeal. To be able get in this region and be a contender was a big factor, too.”