When Tehachapi talks about great football coaches, the names usually referenced are legends like Denman and Ogilvie, Ruggles and Carll. But there is one who has stood the test of time and coached just as many players. His name is Brian Copus.
The Tehachapi Youth Football coach was surprised over the weekend at the Tomahawks’ final set of home games with a commemorative plaque for coaching his 30th season with TYF. He was joined on the field by his family as well as current and former players plus a couple of us old-timers. Coach Copus has been on the Tomahawks sidelines for 30 of the program’s 41 years of existence. He took a few years off here and there for medical reasons and even took the area representative job one season instead of coaching, but he always found his way back to the sidelines.
He’s seen hundreds of players come through his huddles, many of which have gone on to play at the high school and even professional levels. He’s reached the stage now where he’s coached two different generations from the same family. When you’re around for 30 seasons you tend to eventually coach your player’s sons; such is life in a small town.
I played for coach Copus in 1993, when the Tehachapi Tomahawks were part of the Antelope Valley Golden Youth Football Association. We went 10-0 that season, winning what was then called the Senior Division. Our team beat people to sleep. There wasn’t a game we didn’t win by several touchdowns and although I didn’t start a single game that season, I played plenty because there was one thing we could do and that was score points.
My favorite memory of Coach Copus was when I was spending one of my many practices on the scout team offense. I made a TYF career out of being second-string as it wouldn’t be until high school that I would manage to crack a starting spot. During this particular practice we had our backup quarterback running the scout team offense and as usual we were getting manhandled by our first-team defense. Our quarterback missed a wide-open receiver so badly that I chimed in with “even I could have completed that pass!”
It wasn’t long before I had Coach Copus spinning me around in the huddle to the quarterback spot and him saying something like, “OK then, you try it.” I went to the line of scrimmage and got under center with the entire defense laughing. Little did I know that he also called an all-out blitz, and just as the ball reached my hands, the entire defense was on top of me. So much for my quarterback debut, and thus I learned a hard lesson about keeping my mouth shut.
There are memories from other players from three decades-worth of teams that could fill an entire newspaper. He’s won championships in two different divisions once TYF switched to the Golden Empire Youth Football League, and he’s been more involved at the administrative level of GEYFL along with his coaching duties.
When you talk to any coach who has been coaching the game for so long, they’ll tell you about the change in players and coaching styles. As the game of football has changed, so has the way it is coached. So being around for 30 seasons is a testament not only to dedication, but also to a keen ability to adapt with the kids, with the game itself.
Thirty years of dedication to one organization, and it doesn’t appear he’s ready to call it quits just yet. Even Saturday as he finished the handshakes and congratulations, he headed off to get his TYF Varsity squad ready for another important game.
So, when we talk about great coaches, we need to include the name Copus in there from now on. Thirty years of football history doesn’t come overnight. We’d be remiss if we fail to include that amount of institutional knowledge when bragging about our fine Tehachapi football tradition.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.