Brunswick High Pirates

Pirates Passage

By: Kipp Branch news services

Kanaya Charlton is going into his senior season at Brunswick High School.

Number 69 for the Blue and Gold stands at 6’5 and weighs in at around 335 pounds. At that size Charlton is a pretty good athlete. He has quick feet and plays multiple positions along the Pirate offensive line which he will anchor in 2021.

He currently holds 22 committable offers from some big-name schools. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech just to give you a sample size.

On the academic side Mr. Charlton has a 3.8 GPA and is fully qualified. He will graduate BHS early and will enroll in college in January 2022.

Things I noticed in the interview for this article was that Kanaya is a yes sir/no sir type of kid with a firm hand shake and he looks you in the eye when he talks to you.

Charlton’s head coach Sean Pender had to following to say about his highly recruited offensive line prospect: “Kanaya is a young man that wants to get better daily. He takes hard coaching very well, and he can play anywhere along the offensive line when we need him to do so. College coaches look for that versatility in kids they recruit plus he is a great student so we don’t worry about him producing in the classroom. He has gone from a shy kid when he arrived in 9th grade into a confident young man who now addresses the team in meetings in a leadership role. He is the type of kid that is going to show you every single day that he is up for any task we throw at him.”

I spoke with BHS Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach, Garrett Grady who is Charlton’s position coach and he offered the following comments: “Kanaya is a complete student-athlete. He cares about his academics as well as his performance on the field. He is a genuine person who truly cares about everyone around him. His development from his freshman year to now is amazing. He has made tremendous gains in the weight room becoming one of the strongest members of this team. Kanaya has stepped into a leadership role this year and has raised the level intensity & pride of this team. I am very proud of the young man he is becoming and looking forward to what the future holds for Kanaya Charlton. Expect Great things from him!”

I asked Kanaya a few questions regarding this season and his college plans:

What does this coaching staff at BHS mean to you? “My coaches have been there as role models for me. That is an amazing feeling. I feel like they are a huge reason why I’m in the position I am in today”.

What do you like about this 2021 BHS football team? “Since I have been here our team and coaching staff have gotten better every single season. Our goals this year are: City Championship, Region Championship, State Championship. Being put out in the second round the past two seasons has really left a bad taste in our mouth. We are going to change that in 2021. I want our group of seniors this fall to be known as the class that changed our program culture from just being a winning program into a championship program. That is a huge step for our program”

College choice, any thoughts on where you might go? “Today FSU is my #1 choice. I am going there on an official visit this month. I have been on many unofficial visits there so far. The coaches there make me feel the most at home. I will probably make my official commitment to the school I choose either the last week of June or the first week of July. I want to get this behind me so I can 100% focus on my senior season at BHS”. Charlton has indeed committed to go to Florida State.

What will you major in at college? “Life Sciences with a possible focus on Marine Biology”.

Any last comments? “Pirate Pride and remember it is “All about the Family” at Brunswick High School.



The Willis Way

By: Kipp Branch news services

Recently The Glynn County Board of Education approved the renaming of the BHS field house in honor of longtime BHS coach John Willis.

The “John Willis Field House” will be named after a man who roamed the sidelines at historic Lanier Field and Glynn County Stadium from 1980-2001.

For 22 seasons John Willis was the face of Pirate football and will always be the face of Pirate Football to me because John Willis is MY football coach.

I played on his first two football teams in 1980 and 1981. Pirate football is a passion to me to this day because of one man and one man only and his name is John Willis.

The situation at Brunswick High School in 1979/1980 was similar to what we see in our country currently which was a lot of racial division. Our program was coming off a horrible 0-10 season. Our head coach resigned and I was going into my junior year at BHS. Our school needed someone who could unite and bring us all together.

John Willis was named head football coach at BHS in the summer of 1980. I met John Willis for the first time on a hot steamy practice field behind the old BHS campus around 7AM in early August of that year.

Our first game in the 1980 season was a road game at Camden County. Keep in mind we had not won a football game in two years, and the first thing out of the mouth of our new coach was when we beat Camden. Not we are or we hope it was when we beat Camden.

Then we proceeded to run 21, yes 21, I’ll never forget, 100-yard gassers. Coach Willis said I want to find out who is going to quit on me because if you quit on this practice field then you will quit on me on Friday night.

Coach would chant “what kind of meat?” we would answer Wildcat meat. That became our preseason rally cry. We became a football team in three short weeks.

We loaded the bus and went down to Camden on a Friday afternoon for that season opener. John Willis had a way of making you want to run to run through a wall for him. We believed we were going to beat Camden that night and we did 6-2.

We were all jumping for joy on the field and the first person who hugged me when the horn went off was John Willis and his quote was “I told you so Kipp”.

Outside of my own Father I can’t think of another man I respect more than John Willis in this world today. We went on to become a playoff team my senior season in 1981 and when I see my former team members there is always a special bond from that season when we became a winning football team.

John Willis made us into winners and the lessons he taught us on the practice field still hold true today. If you believe, work harder, and never give up then not many folks will beat you in life.

The ‘John Willis Way’ gave two decades of Pirate football letterman a solid foundation for life. I’m told the road from Habersham Street to the John Willis Field House will be called John Willis Way.

Former players have called Habersham Street John Willis Way for years because John Willis helped teach us how to become a man.

The ‘John Willis Way’ is the only way I know how to approach the game of football. Thank you coach for all you have done for Brunswick High School. Next stop for you should be The Glynn County Sports Hall of Fame. You taught me Pirate Pride coach!

Loaded Ship

By: Kipp Branch news services

It is only May but football is in the air.

I went out and observed the Brunswick High Blue and Gold game this past week and here are my 15 instant observations:

1)Brunswick will run the football on anyone they line up against this fall.

The running game looked special in the game. Kobe Hill, Ree Simmons, and Leon Charlton are a special group of running backs.

2)Jayden Drayton has a burst that I haven’t seen in a while on Altama Avenue.

Drayton played QB, WR, DB, and returned punts yesterday. This kid has the “It” factor and a different kind of football speed you don’t see a lot these days on the high school level.

3)Kobe Hill is back to 100%. Hill sprained his knee in the season opener last season, and just didn’t have his normal speed last year as he recovered.

Hill had a couple of TDs in the game, with one being a long TD run off of a screen pass where he ran away from a fast secondary. Chuckobe Hill is back folks.

4)Brunswick’s offensive line looked very good. LT Kanaya Charlton is a big-time player and Charlton and RT Jamal Meriweather look like human skyscrapers. This offensive line is huge folks.

5)Brunswick has size and depth on the defensive line. Kashawn Thomas should have a big season this fall.

Defensive line looked good at times. Defensive front put good pressure on the QB most of the day.

6)Leon Charlton has slimmed down and has gained some quickness. For some reason I feel like this kid is going to have a very good season this fall. Hill and Simmons get the headlines at RB, but there is just something about this kid. He makes plays.

7)Deep passing game struggled. It was very windy and some balls were overthrown. Short passing game and screen package looked good.

8)Jeffery Waye looked like an experienced QB yesterday. I see a lot of potential at the QB position.

Sutton Ellis led a couple of scoring drives, and Jayden Drayton looked good running the ball out of the QB position.

9)There is a lot of speed and depth in the BHS secondary. I like what I see on the backend of this defense.

10)There is talent at LB, but I want to see more consistent play from the group. BHS lost a ton of experience in this group to graduation. Size, speed, and numbers are there just need more consistency.

11)Kicking game could be a strength. Anthony Elvine boomed a couple of punts with the wind at his back. McClain Fineran looked solid on extra points.

12)BHS has some tall kids at WR. I like Kevin Thomas. He has bulked up and can run. Look for him to have a solid season.

13)Game was well attended. There seems to be a buzz about this team. You can sort of feel it in the air.

14)Don’t be surprised if BHS plays 2 QB’s this fall, and don’t be surprised if Sean Pender rotates them in and out on every play like Steve Spurrier did some while he was at Florida.

15)Long snapping is a big concern.

Sean Pender told me after the game that he thought BHS could have played a lot better especially in the passing game, but said we’ll fix that over the summer.

Personally, I thought they looked good. My blood runs Blue and Gold but folks that know me understand that.

Get ready Pirate fans this fall could be fun.

The Voyage Begins

By: Kipp Branch news services

Sean Pender is excited about his 2021 football team this fall. “We are a talented football team, and we as coaches are excited to see how the talent develops. We have the potential to be a very good football team this fall”.

The head Pirate does have to replace 14 starters off of an 8-4 team from 2020 that won a share of the region championship, and a state playoff game. “We do have some holes to fill this year, but we played a lot of young kids last year that will move into starter slots this fall, but I love the work ethic of this football team. This team wants to be very good, and they are putting in the work to support that statement.”

Let’s take a look at position groups:

QB: Senior Jeffery Waye and Junior Jayden Drayton are locked into a battle at the QB position.

Pender says “if the season started tomorrow both would see playing time at the position”.

Waye was the back-up QB in 2020 and his coach says he has been very impressed with how he is progressing at the position.

Drayton, who transferred over from Glynn Academy, has put on almost 10 pounds of muscle in the winter conditioning program and is learning the new system at BHS.

His coach says “This kid will be recruited as an athlete and he will wear a lot of hats for us this fall. He will play some QB, WR, DB, and he will return kicks for us”.

OL: Kanaya Charlton will move to LT this fall and Pender says “Kanaya Charlton is as good as we’ve had here and that says a lot”.

Charlton at 6’7 and 330 pounds can play anywhere he wants at the next level. Offers are pouring in.

Jaquan Gibson returns as a starter at guard. Jamal Meriweather, AJ Anderson, Eli Smith, Lester Clark, Matthew Moore, William McDonald, Chris Wineski, and Jonathan Welson will battle for playing time, but depth at the position group is great.

WR: The position is very deep in talent, Kevin Thomas and Pat Leggett are playmakers. J ’Maun Weldon, Zeb Jackson, Terry Mitchell, Na’verious Williams, TJ Smith, Trey Elvine, and Jayden Drayton will all see targets in 2021. “We are deep and talented and will cause issues in space with this group” says Pender.

DL: Kayshawn Thomas will be back for his junior season with an SEC offer from South Carolina.

Thomas will lead a group that consists of River Creel, Jordan Jimerson, Jameer Lang, Jamal Meriweather, Anthony Bautista, and Matthew Moore. Pender says “#99 Thomas can be as good as he wants to be and will be a force in the middle”

LB: Pirates must replace 4 starters from last fall, but were 7 deep at the position last year.

Staffon Stanley, Adam Mweemba, and Lionel Twiity all started games last year at the position.

A name to watch could be Gerald Quick, who has the frame to be outstanding player at the position.

DB: Pender says “We are stacked 8-9 deep at DB”.

Jayden Drayton was All-Region in 2020. Derrick Smith and Keon Leggett were big contributors last fall. Ivan Johnson returns at safety. Na’verious Williams was a starter at Glynn last fall before transferring.

Other names to watch JaShawn Wilson, Tyler Sams, and Zeb Jackson, and Gerald Quick.

Anthony Elvine returns as punter, and McClain Fineran will handle PAT/FG’s.

Finally, the “Wolfpack” also known as the RB group.

Ree Simmons and Kobe Hill have both had seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing.

Hill in 2019, and Simmons in 2020. Barring injury this duo will finish their Pirate careers with over 5000 combined rushing yards.

Pender says “These guys are leaders and hate to lose and that mentality has taken root on this football team”.

Leon Charlton returns, Taivon Gadson, and Neshiek Cohen add depth. Embarrassment of riches at this position.

Spring Practice starts on May 4th and ends with the Blue and Gold Spring game on May 20th.

2021 could be special on Altama Avenue. #AllAboutTheFamily at BHS.

Pirates Voyage

By: Kipp Branch news services

The Brunswick High Pirate Football team finished its season with a tough loss to Lee County in the second round of the State playoffs last week.

Brunswick finished with an 8-4 record. Head Coach Sean Pender and the Pirates won a share of the Region 2-AAAAAA crown this fall, which is something the Pirate football program has not done since 2009.

The eight-win season is something the program has not accomplished since 2010. The 2020 Pirates also won their first City Championship since 2013, and in spite of these accomplishments Sean Pender was not named the Region Coach of the year and the award went to a team and coach he defeated. 2020 strikes again. Maybe a recount should be requested.

This edition of the Pirates got off to a rocky start with a loss at Pierce County, where star running back Chukobe Hill suffered a knee injury that that kept him out of action for a month.

BHS bounced back and beat MCA in week two.

In week 3 the Pirates fumbled away a chance to beat highly thought of Benedictine deep in Cadet territory with a minute left in the contest.

After the 1-2 start the Pirates went on the road on a Thursday night and beat a good Northeast Macon team 41-12 and that began a four-game winning streak that included the “Miracle between the Bricks” 75-yard TD pass from KJ Lee to Tyrease Jones with 16 seconds left in the contest to win the City Championship.

On Halloween weekend the Pirates came up short against Richmond Hill but then won three straight before falling at Lee County last week.

The Pirates were well represented on the first team All-Region selections with the following Pirates be named to the first team:


OL- Caleb Cook

OL- Kanaya Charlton

DB: Amarion Whitfield

WR: Tyrease Jones

RB: Ree Simmons

LB: Zane Rosenbaum


Second Team Selections:

KJ Lee

Xaiver Bean

David Newbauer

Kayshawn Thomas

Kaleb Hampton

Camron Crump

Devontae Gadson

Anthony Elvine


Honorable Mention:

Kevin Thomas

Chukobe Hill

Quan Gibson

Keon Leggett

AJ Wilson

Kyle Rehberg


This Senior Class has put the program back on solid ground moving forward for the future.  Coach Pender when asked about this group of seniors got a little emotional when commenting on this group:

“These kids bought into everything we were trying to teach them. They worked hard, and there was a spirit of unity with this group that has been infectious for the younger players in the program. They have laid the foundation for a winning culture here. They were the first group I have had here for all four years, and this group will always hold a special place in my heart because the foundation they created will produce results long after they will no longer walk these halls at BHS. They leave us as champions both Region and City and it has been a while since we have said that here, and now that is the expectation moving forward with this football program”.

I have enjoyed covering this team and group of seniors, and like Coach Pender stated this group has laid the foundation for the future of BHS football.

The 2020 Brunswick High Football team will always be remembered as the “Drought Breakers” on Altama Avenue and as champions and this senior class will be champions in life, and that means more than winning football games.

Pirate Pride

By: Kipp Branch news services

I was on the search committee four years ago that recommended the hiring of Sean Pender as the 8th Head Football Coach in the history of Brunswick High School dating back to 1968 when the football program began.

One thing that jumped out in the process was that Sean Pender came to the interview with an already developed Brunswick High Pirates Leadership Training Manual that blew away the selection committee, and the passion in which he discussed leadership ultimately landed him the BHS job.

For this story in Sean Pender’s own words is his vision for the BHS program he has built over the past four years:

“The vision of our program is clear and simple. We want to create a championship mindset. We not only want to win State Championships but we want to be champions in life. We will set an expectation of excellence. Our goals will be set high and we will formulate a plan to achieve our desired goals. All members of our team will play vital roles in our mission. We want the members of the football program to graduate with the following skills:


To look people in the eye when talking to them.

To speak about things that matter.

To commit to something and actually stick with it.

To work hard for goals that they set for themselves.

To become a good teammate who works with multiple changing personalities on an ongoing basis and makes all work together.

To receive coaching and then give mentorship once it is learned.

To learn how to win, how to handle a loss, and how to move forward with a positive take away (Learning opportunity, stay strong).

To understand how to deal with pressure with clarity of mind.

To learn the value of delayed gratification.

To appreciate structure and understand its value.


These are real skills that student athletes can take with them when they are in real situations in life.

These qualities will help them become better community members, husbands, and fathers.

Our program will not exclude students from having the opportunity to be a part of the team. All student-athletes will have the opportunity to learn.

It is our belief that good coaches give encouragement. This program will not be built strictly on motivation and hype, but rather it will be built on empowerment.

Motivation, by itself, might get us through a practice or a situation, but empowering will give us the belief that we can be something more.

Empowering our program will get everyone involved to continue the work when it becomes the grind.

We will be the type of coaches that tells all team members that they are the reason we are winners. We will provide encouragement and the opportunity for encouragement.

We will learn to fight for what we love, to belong to something bigger than self, and to work with diversity.

It is our goal to not only build championship caliber student-athletes, but to also build our team to become champions in life. So, our students can grow up to be productive adults excelling in a competitive global environment.”

The character word for this week and pretty much the season has been unity. You see a unity walk every week when the Pirates arrive at the venue they are playing in.

The kids love their coaches, and the coaches love these kids. In the context of 2020 you read, hear and see all sorts of negativity in the world.

If you want to see great things happening with young people go observe the BHS football program where young men are being developed to lead for the future.

As for the results the Brunswick High Pirates take on Lee County in the second round of the State Playoffs.

The blueprint has turned into a City and Co-Region Championship this season. The 8-3 Pirates are a very good football team; something that began with character development.

The Pender Way is the right way for Brunswick High Football. The best is still to come.

Pirates Ship

By: Kipp Branch news services

After a huge win in the region opener against Glynn Academy the Brunswick High Pirates have an inside track to win the region. Here are my mid-season grades for Brunswick.

Special Teams: B+: Anthony Elvine has become a weapon punting the football.

He is close to setting a school record for punts downed inside the 15-yard line. He is a weapon he creates a long field for Pirate opponents.

Elvine is having an all-region season at punter.

Kyle Rehberg is putting many of his kickoffs in the end zone in 2020, and the big third quarter FG that gave BHS a 17-7 lead in the City Championship game ended up being the difference in a wild 24-21 win.

The Pirates are still waiting on the big kick return for BHS in 2020, but the special teams area, which has long been a weakness for BHS has become a team strength in 2020.

Defense: B+: The defense is giving up under 20 points per game this season.

Kashawn Thomas is starting to make a name for himself on the defensive line and has become that force in the middle of the defense for BHS.

We know what Cameron Crump and AJ Wilson can do at linebacker. Zane Rosenbaum was the defensive player of the game in the City Championship.

In the secondary Devontae Gadson is having a solid season. This unit, led by DC Thomas Tedder, is much improved in 2020.

The unit gave up two long TD drives in the 4th quarter against Glynn so there is room for improvement.

Offense: B: The offensive line coached up by OC Garrett Grady has become one of the best in South Georgia.

Caleb Cook and Kanaya Charlton are major college prospects at tackle.

Keegan Carroll, Jaquan Gibson, and David Newbauer round out a starting unit that can execute the power run game and protect the passer.

The Wolfpack or the running back group Ree Simmons and Chuckobe Hill are the best tandem in the region.

Simmons is having a great season, and Hill is back from an injury suffered in season opener.

The emergence of Leon Charlton has given BHS three great options at running back.

Tyrease Jones just made the greatest play in BHS history to win the City Championship game from that will forever be known as “The Miracle Between the Bricks” a 75-yard TD pass caught off of a deflection plus all-out sprint to the end zone that broke a losing streak in the series.

KJ Lee is having the season we all expected of him. Great arm talent.

Coaching: B+: Sean Pender has done a fantastic job with this team. The players love their coaches and there is a sense of unity on this team that stands out.

This team is still improving weekly. Pender has put his stamp on the program with the win over the Terrors.

There is still a lot of work to do with this team in 2020, but they are definitely heading in the right direction.

The goals for BHS every season are:

City Championship

Region Championship

State Championship

Goal #1 is complete now it is on to Goal #2, which will be decided over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned the 2020 football story is still being written at BHS because” It’s All About the Family” for the City Champions.