VARINA, Va. -- When former Varina football coach Stu Brown announced he was stepping down in December, it came as a surprise to many.
Brown and the Blue Devils were coming off a regional championship and had made it all the way to the Class 5 state semifinals in 2019. And Varina had had just three head coaches in the past 30 years. It’s one of the best jobs in Virginia high school football.
So, when it came time to naming Brown’s replacement, Varina officials didn’t go far. They stayed in house and in the family, naming Marcus Lewis their new head coach.
“I had to go home and make sure my wife and my kids were on board first,” Lewis explained about his applying for the job. He was hired the day he interviewed, but Varina delayed the announcement until Thursday.
The previous three Varina head coaches (Ed Bulheller, Gary Chilcoat, and Brown) were a combined 258-88 since 1990, with 20 playoff appearances and several regional titles in that span.
Lewis was an All-Metro linebacker for the Blue Devils, graduating in 2001. Since 2008, he has been on Brown’s staff, most recently serving as defensive coordinator.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Lewis said. “I never thought I’d be the head coach at Varina. I know I have some big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
“He was my first hire when I became head coach,” Brown added. “He’s got the highest football IQ of any player I’ve ever coached. Varina football just got better.”
That won’t be easy to do. The Blue Devils were 11-3 this past season and those three losses were by a combined 17 points. But if Lewis feels any pressure, he’s not showing it on day one.
“I’ve been around football my whole life,” Lewis explained. “Grades first is my motto. We’re going to be tough, disciplined and go until the whistle blows.”
That big whistle will now hang from his neck. Lewis has been talking with Brown about everything that goes along with being a head coach, from fund raising to dealing with the media. And, he has to build a staff. Lewis was the defensive coordinator, but would rather not continue in that role along with being head coach. And Brown was the offensive coordinator so he will need to fill that slot as well. His cousin, Jonathan Lewis is also a former Varina standout and just won a state title as part of Ricky Irby’s staff at Hopewell. Lewis has already put the squeeze on him to come back home to Varina.
“He knows that I want him here,” Lewis said of his cousin. “I’m going to give him the opportunity if he wants to come and get it. I’m hoping he comes home.”