CHARLOTTESVILLE — Twenty-eight years later, Kyle Barrentine remembers the moment in remarkable detail.
Following the biggest win of his life, Barrentine attended a gathering at a teammate’s home.
He wound up talking with his coach, Bob Copeland, in the property’s barn.
“You guys won’t realize until many years later what you’ve done here today,” said Copeland, hours after his Eastern Hancock Royals defeated Jimtown 20-7 to win the 1985 Class A state football championship.
Every time the lone team to claim a state title in the history of EH athletics reconvenes, the team’s starting quarterback is reminded of his coach’s words.
“That’s the thing I always think about,” he said. “You really don’t realize how big of a deal it was until we’re basically the age we all are now.”
When he took over the Eastern Hancock football program in 1979, Copeland was embarking on his first head coaching position.
When Pat Echeverria was named coach of the Royals in April of 2011, it was his first job as a head coach.
Each came from successful high school backgrounds: Copeland was an assistant at Cathedral from 1972-79, notching a pair of state runner-up finishes and three city championships; Echeverria was an assistant on three straight winning Cascade teams from 2003-05 and claimed a semistate title as a defensive coordinator at Pike in 2007.
Copeland was 33 when he was hired at Eastern Hancock; Echeverria was 32.
Now, the styles of play between the 1985 squad and the current 13-0 team could not be more different, especially offensively. The Royals of yesteryear ran a wishbone set — Barrentine said in 14 games, the team threw 92 times. The 2013 team favors the run as well — 75.8 percent of its offensive snaps are rushing attempts — but they go about it in a different manner, spreading the field with multiple wide receivers in a shotgun formation.
The way the past and present players speak in reverence for their coaches could not be more similar, however.
“Copeland is an awesome guy. He was a father figure, a mentor and a great motivator. He was somebody that you could turn to, ask a question and he’d give you a simple answer,” said Mike Gilbert, a starting linebacker on the 1985 team. “I coached junior high football for awhile and I would email him all the time. Most of it wasn’t about X’s and O’s, but life lessons that he gave us.”
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