Conyers named new Warriors coach

Published 9:48 pm Friday, April 13, 2018

By Matthew Hatfield

Correspondent

Nansemond River High School has named its new head football coach. Now at the helm is Justin Conyers, who was a member of the coaching staff last season when the Warriors captured a regional title and reached the state semifinals for the first time in 22 years.

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“Coach Conyers has been a vital part of our football family, serving as an assistant for our program over the past years,” stated Kristy Brett, Nansemond River director of student activities/athletics. “He is currently a teacher in our building, and we are expecting a smooth transition as he takes over for David Coccoli, who has stepped down to pursue a career in school administration.”

Conyers, 28, graduated in 2008 from Western Branch, where he was a four-year starter at linebacker and earned All-Southeastern District accolades. But he began coaching at the age of 19 with Scott Johnson, for whom he played at Western Branch his senior year. Conyers coached linebackers for two years at his alma mater with Johnson, then two more seasons there under Greg Gibson.

In 2014, Conyers was brought in by Coccoli to join the coaching staff at Nansemond River in the capacity of head junior varsity coach and varsity assistant.

“All these kids, I coached them at Nansemond River and when they were at John Yeates Middle School,” Conyers explained. “The group I was the head J.V. coach for, they were seniors last year. The eighth graders, I coached them that following spring. So it comes back full circle.”

Before returning to the Warriors, Conyers re-united with his mentor and former head coach at Western Branch for three seasons, Lew Johnston, while at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. Conyers served as defensive coordinator at NSA under Johnston when the Saints won a VISAA Division III state title in 2015, then got his first opportunity as a head coach.

Conyers became head coach at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach in 2016, but didn’t stay on for the following season and instead came back to Nansemond River as an assistant before the start of the 2017 campaign. He was the defensive coordinator the first five games, then switched to offensive coordinator after that and continued in that role during the postseason.

“It’s amazing. Coming to a program with the success Nansemond River has had under Coach Coccoli, finishing over .500 in three seasons and the beautiful playoff run we had last year, there definitely are expectations here. That’s what we want,” Conyers remarked.

Turning the job over to someone with familiarity of the players and how the program operates proved to make the most sense for the Nansemond River administration as they sifted through candidates for the position.

“We are excited about the energy and leadership that he brings to our winning football program,” Brett added.

Don’t expect much to change from a philosophical or preparation standpoint, Conyers says.

“We’re going to focus on attention to detail and finishing. Playing in the Southeastern District against the likes of Oscar Smith and Indian River as well as King’s Fork, Lakeland, Deep Creek and others is a tall task. It has been a staple of Hampton Roads, and we have tough football,” the new head coach said.

“Everything matters. How we tie our shoes. How we look. We’re focused on every little thing that might seem minute to some programs.”

With at least 14 starters back from last season’s squad, expectations remain as high as ever for the Warriors, too.

“We currently have 33 rising seniors on our roster. Our goal is to win a state championship, and we’re not shy to admit that,” Conyers said.

“We do believe we have the toughest region in Division 5. But our goal is to be back in the regional championship, win the regional championship and then go through Highland Springs to win a state championship. In order to get that, we have to go through Maury, especially since that’s our home opener and my first game as the Nansemond River head coach.”