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WENDELL — Naming a new East Wake High football coach has become an old habit since 2015.
With a fresh decade brings another beginning for Dealton Cotton, the fourth different face of the program the past five years.
Cotton said his first acts as coach will be to break the two main ongoing streaks: the chief changeovers and the four straight losing seasons.
“We will win at East Wake,” Cotton’s said to an introduction audience last week in the campus library. “If you don’t believe that, then you don’t need to be here. So if you don’t believe that, you can go ahead and excuse yourself now.”
Principal Stacey Alston stayed focused more on Cotton’s arrival than on any exits. He explained the search process included consulting with players and peers before establishing a committee to cull through the “40 or 50” resumes. Alston was given a list of three for a final decision.
“Everything you asked for in a football coach, we have it,” Alston said. “Everything the coaches asked for in a football coach, we have it.”
Cotton’s 28-year career has spanned the preps gridiron, where he has assumed lead roles at Hertford County (15-7 record), Maury High (30-15) in Virginia and two stints at Norview High (39-28) across the state line.
The Norfolk, Virginia native also spent time as an assistant head coach building the Old Dominion University football program from scratch. The Monarchs were 27-8 during his reign.
“I’ve been blessed to be put in situations where I can motivate kids,” Cotton said, citing “over 400 kids” he has sent to play college football. He draws from his own on-field experience as an East Carolina University defensive lineman and the multitude of mentoring influences he has learned from over the years.
Such an impressive track record might raise eyebrows at his latest venture, but he mentions the family roots planted in the Henderson, Raleigh, Durham and Clayton areas.
“This is like a homecoming for me,” Cotton added.
Plus, this man appreciates a good challenge. So his three-point plan tackles the personal besides the athletic. He already stressed victories.
“The second thing we will do is we will graduate at East Wake. Not with a 1.5, but we will graduate with a high enough grade-point average where you will be able to go to college if you choose that route,” he added. “The third thing is we are gonna be good people. We are gonna change the atmosphere about everybody thinking football players got to be the ones causing the most problems in school. Football players are going to be the example.”
He promised a dedication to discipline.
“You got this, too. Somebody who is gonna believe 100% that things are done right when you walk down the hallways, when you are at home, when you are at football practice, when you are in the weight room, when you are sleeping,” Cotton said. “Things will done the right way. Things got to be done the right way.”
An advocate of a “physical” style, running the pigskin emerges as a priority. So does stout, swarming defense. However, he prefers the design details of his alignments and schemes to remain a secret till spring unveiling.
Cotton complimented the coaching staff already in place around him, but he also shared with it the burden of improving.
“If you are head coach of your position, I expect you to be the master of your position,” he said. “It’s about preparation. It’s not on the kids. It’s on us as coaches making sure we hold kids accountable, be organized and be disciplined. ... The kids will see ... and they will follow. I’m a firm believer in that.”
From premiere impressions, honesty is also a strict policy.
“There are going to be days where you say, ‘That man is crazy.’ There are going to be some days when you are probably right,” Cotton told the crowd. “But I’m crazy for all the right reasons. I want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to maximize who they are as a person, who they are as a student and who they are as a football player.”
With the welcome mat laid out, he steps aboard and expects to leave an immediate impact.