Nick Bazzle led the Newton-Conover Red Devils to two consecutive state championship games — winning one in 2008. He has 97 career wins as head coach at Newton-Conover, and he can add one more to that before the start of the season.
Bazzle, in his 12th season as head coach of the Newton-Conover Red Devils, is The Observer News Enterprise Coach of the Decade presented by Dwayne Wilson Insurance. Bazzle won the award based on the amount of reader votes he received.
“There are too many coaches in this area that have done a whole lot more than I have,” he said. “When your kids have success, I guess, in a way, it reflects on you. A football program is so much bigger than the head coach. There is no way I can do this by myself.”
Former Red Devil head coach and athletic director Don Patrick — Bazzle’s predecessor — received an honorable mention in the competition.
Coaching football or any other sport does not exist solely between the sidelines. There are late-night film sessions scouting opponents, hours spent putting together highlight DVDs, and lots of time on lawn mowers cutting fields. There is also the understanding that life is not just about football.
“When I have them in the weight room during the school day, I want them to work hard and invest,” Bazzle said. “I don’t pressure them in the summer. I don’t require them to be here or they don’t play. If you want to keep this tradition, then you have to do some work. I think there is time a kid has to be a kid, and the coach has to be a dad. You need time away from this place, and the offseason is the time for that.”
It also extends beyond that. One person who nominated Bazzle for the award said the head Red Devil “encourages students in his class making a difference in the student’s perception of their teenage self. RED DEVIL PRIDE is obvious in our community thanks to coach Bazzle investing his time and talents in nurturing and instructing these young men.”
Bazzle called the 2008 state championship season the crowning moment of his career, and he went a long way to get there. He had only two goals when he took over the program in 1999 — to leave with a winning record and give the players a solid program. Championships were secondary. The Red Devils scheduled Wilkes Central as the season opener that season, and he was nervous in the week leading up to his first game. Then he called the opposing coach, also making his debut that night, and switched the game to a scrimmage. Newton-Conover outscored Wilkes Central by seven touchdowns that night.
The Red Devils went 5-5 that season. They lost the next year by one point in the state championship game, won the big game in 2008, and lost in December 2009 to 2AA state powerhouse Reidsville in the state championship game. Newton-Conover is 29-3 the last two seasons.
“I’ve been blessed with gifted athletes, and I’ve got a coaching staff that believes in the same things I do,” Bazzle said. “They believe in hard work. They believe in commitment. They believe in football here at Newton-Conover.”