Jimmy Longerbeam has a track record of turning around high school football programs that in some cases have also endured recent coaching turnover.
At Loris High School (S.C.), he led the program to back-to-back winning records for the first time in more than a decade after going 2-8 each of his first two seasons at the helm.
After four seasons at Loris, he moved to Panama City Bay High School (Fla.) as the program’s third head coach in four years. In five seasons there, he led the Tornadoes to their first playoff berth in 12 years.
Longerbeam then left Panama City Bay for T.C. Williams in Alexandria, becoming the Titans’ third head coach in three seasons. T.C. Williams had posted back-to-back 2-8 records in 2014 and 2015 before Longerbeam took over the following season. He went 24-20 overall with the Titans, leading them to three playoff appearances, including their first playoff win since 1990.
Now comes his next project: Woodbridge. Longerbeam is the Vikings’ third head coach in three seasons and the fifth in the past 10 seasons.
He replaces Alex Urquhart, who stepped down after one year at Woodbridge. Urquhart announced his decision to his players April 6, saying he and his wife wanted to move closer to family in South Hill when the school year ends. Urquhart and his wife are expecting their first child in September.
Playing a compressed schedule because of the pandemic, the Vikings went 1-5 under Urquhart. Woodbridge started mostly underclassmen this season.
Longerbeam, 59, learned of the Woodbridge opening when a friend texted him. Longerbeam was sitting in his truck at the time. When he got home, he told his wife, Alette, he wanted to apply for the job. She supported his decision.
Woodbridge was impressed with his pedigree. His 33 years of coaching experience caught their attention. But so did his knack for reviving struggling programs. Woodbridge activities director Mike Wright said the school interviewed six individuals for the job. But Longerbeam clearly stood out.
When Wright called Longerbeam to offer the job, he told him, “You are the guy.” Longerbeam immediately accepted, telling Wright, “I want to be the guy.”
Longerbeam, who teaches special education, plans to move closer to Woodbridge. He lived in West Virginia while teaching and coaching at Riverside in Loudoun County.
“I think this is one of those jobs where you can win here and win consistently,” Longerbeam said.
With 2,739 students, Woodbridge is Prince William County’s fourth largest high school, behind Battlefield (2,906), Colgan (2,888) and Patriot (2,795). The Vikings have a strong tradition of success, most recently reaching the playoffs nine out of 10 seasons from 2004-2013. But since then, Woodbridge reached the postseason in only three of the past seven seasons and missed the playoffs each of the past three seasons.
A 1980 graduate of James Wood High School in Winchester, Longerbeam remembers playing against Woodbridge when the two schools were in the Commonwealth District.
Woodbridge is Longerbeam’s eighth permanent head coaching job. He held the position at three different high schools in Florida, one in South Carolina and one in North Carolina before returning to Virginia in 2016 to take the T.C. Williams position.
Longerbeam said he moved to T.C. Williams to be closer to his parents, who still lived in Winchester. He stepped down from T.C. Williams after his son, Robert, graduated and went on to play football at Rutgers.
He took the Riverside job with the hopes of moving his mother to a facility in nearby Leesburg as she battled Alzheimer's. But the pandemic prevented the move from happening.
Longerbeam almost coached at another Prince William high school starting with the 2017 season. Unity Reed offered him the job. But he withdrew his name from consideration due to a holdup trying to find an opening for him in the school system, preferably at Unity Reed.
Longerbeam has hired most of his coaching staff. He brought three assistants who coached with him at T.C. Williams. He also retained four coaches from Urquhart’s staff for continuity. Practice begins July 29, and the Vikings open their regular season Aug. 27 at home against Class 6 state-runner-up South County.
“I’ve watched film,” Longerbeam said of the Vikings. “They got better as the season went on. They have some very good kids here.”