By CLARK LEONARD
Special to the LTN
SHELBY –– Leaving Burns High to take the reins of the Newton-Conover football program wasn’t a quick decision for Matt Beam.
Beam, who went 51-17 in five seasons with the Bulldogs and got his head coaching start at North Lincoln, said it was an emotional process.
“It’s been the most difficult decision that I’ve ever had to make in my life. I appreciate everything that everybody’s done for me,” the Lincoln County native told the Shelby Star in a phone interview Monday. “I thank Cleveland County for the opportunity. It’s been a great five years. I’m not moving that far away.”
Ultimately, the opportunity at Newton-Conover won him over. The Red Devils position came open when Brint Russell resigned in November after an 11-13 record in two seasons at the school.
“I was very impressed with the direction and the goals that (principal) Kevin Campbell and (Newton-Conover City Schools superintendent David) Stegall have,” Beam said. “They went out of their way to let me know quickly that I was the person they wanted.”
He said the new job allows him to stay close to friends in Cleveland County and to keep going to Elevation Church.
A graduate of East Lincoln, Beam became North Lincoln’s second head football coach in its short history in 2005 and led the Knights to a 30-20 record across four seasons and to the state playoffs each year.
Under Beam Burns began a string of four consecutive 10-win seasons in 2010, the first such stretch in program history. It also won the 2010, 2011 and 2012 South Mountain Athletic 2A/3A Conference championships.
Beam’s teams at Burns won at least one playoff game each year.
“Everyone wants to win a state championship. And I’m no different,” Beam said. “But we’re not going to be judged by that.”
The Bulldogs were 1-10 a season before Beam arrived and in need of some confidence.
“They weren’t that far off. We had to come in and really instill a work ethic in them, make sure they were able to physically compete,” Beam said. “I made sure that we were not inferior to anyone and we had to get that mentality that we could go out and play with anyone and beat anyone we played. It took some time.”
In his nine seasons as a head coach, Beam’s teams are 81-37 and all nine have reached the state playoffs.
Beam’s teams have had just one losing season –– his first at Burns, which went 6-7 in 2009.
Newton-Conover went 2-9 last season and finished seventh in the eight-team Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference. The Red Devils missed the state playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Beam has also spent time as an assistant at East Lincoln.
LTN Sports Editor Ryan Herman contributed to this story.