Coach David Buchanan, the real deal.
Titans Head Coach Resigns
The first time I met David Buchanan was a warm July morning at summer practice. I was familiar with him based on his relationship with others that I knew. I was told coming to Mercer County that Coach Buchanan was constantly authentic, and a coach who truly cared more about his players than he did the scoreboard on Friday nights. Leaving our first interaction, I sent a simple text to a few of those connections, “David Buchanan is the real deal.”
This past Thursday, Jan. 20, via a statement on social media David Buchanan stepped down as the head football coach at Mercer County. In it he wrote, “When Dennis Davis hired me for this position, I absolutely believe I was the right guy for the job and at the right time. That time has passed. Almost every coach has a clock that runs out wherever they are coaching, eventually. Often, coaches stay after their time has run out. The kids and the program suffer when that happens. I love our kids, Titan football, and our community too much to stay too long when a change will benefit our program,” said Buchanan.
Mercer County Senior High School Titan football was birthed into tumult. A surprising merger between Harrodsburg High School and Mercer County High School thrust together a roster who rallied around the inconvenience of their circumstance and won what is the program’s only state title in 2006, finishing the year 15-0.
After that season, Titan football struggled to find consistency. Between hoisting the state championship trophy in 2006 and 2014 Mercer would go just 36-55, with only two winning seasons. (2012, 2013). The lack of success led to consistent turn over at the head coach position. In just eight seasons, Mercer would have four head coaches.
In stepped David Buchanan. Buchanan was coming from Mason County where he had taken a program with four winning seasons from 1979 to 1995 to find consistent success. Though the Titans got off to a slow start (0-5), in the fall of 2015, the team rallied and turned their season around, winning six games in a row before falling, 17-19, to Knox Central in the district championship. They finished the season 6-6. Coach Buchanan’s quick impact at Mercer County would earn him KFCA KY 4A Coach of the Year and Advocate-Messenger All Area Coach of the Year.
As a former player, assistant coach and more Wesley Bird had this to say about the 2015 season, “that season was one of the hardest seasons of Titan football ever. It wasn’t just the losses on the field, those were good 5A and 6A teams and we were learning a new system, but you combine that with three of us losing our dads that season including Coach Buchanan and it gave us every excuse to pack it in and give up. Coach didn’t let that happen, he might have been the proudest 0-5 head coach in history, the way he held that team together. He wasn’t worried about the scoreboard, he was worried about us as people. He established in year one that the people were the most important parts of Titan football and that we were a family. He’s always been a father figure to me and he’s helped shape me into the person I am today.”
In 2016, Coach B, as he’s known to his players, started to hit his stride, the Titans’ defense exploded onto the scene and forced 37 turnovers. Quarterback Gunnar Gillis and running back Donald “D” Smith helped lead the Titans on offense to a district championship, 4A state quarterfinals and an 8-5 record. This run included a thrilling 31-30 overtime victory against a 10-1 Rockcastle County team.
Under Coach Buchanan, Mercer County football saw constant improvement. In his third season, the Titans had a 2,500+ yard passer, a 1000+ yard rusher and a defense who continued to get turnovers at an impressive rate. Trevon Faulkner shined again for the Titans with five fumble recoveries and eight interceptions in addition to his 17 offensive touchdowns. These early Titan teams began to embrace what it is to be a David Buchanan coached team. They were tough, resilient and played with class finishing the season, 7-6 as district champs and a state quarter finalist.
The football Titans experienced their only losing season under Buchanan in 2018, a team that was loaded with young talent and future college athletes. Despite their record, they out scored their opponents on the season. Malachi Yulee rushed for over 1000+ yards and through an up and down season, Mercer County competed for a district title before falling to Moore.
As the 2019 KFCA Kentucky 3A Coach of the Year, Advocate-Messenger All Area Coach of the Year and Louisville Courier Journal KY 3A Coach of the Year, Buchanan continued to build the Mercer County program. Preaching consistency and hard work, his team was just that, consistent. The 8-3 Titans racked up 35 rushing touchdowns including 14 for Malachi Yulee, eight for Brayden Dunn, and six for Kaelin Drakeford. It was obvious, not only to Mercer County, but the entire state that, Buchanan had done what many thought no one could, he had turned the tide for the Titans into a program that produced consistent winning.
As was the case for so many, Coach Buchanan found himself at a difficult point headed into the fall of 2020. Many people were unsure if high school football would even happen. Amidst the confusion Buchanan, who is the president of the Kentucky Football Coaches Association (KFCA) stepped in to lead during this unprecedented struggle. His leadership and advocacy helped in allowing the 2020 football season to even happen.
In a year marked by unpredictability, Buchanan’s Titans were in a way, predictable. In just nine games, Mercer scored 28 rushing touchdowns and once again be one of the elite teams in the state taking the ball away 23 times from their opponents. The Titans’ only losses were to the eventual 4A state champion Boyle County, and 3A Runner up Christian Academy of Louisville (CAL). The Titans beat CAL in overtime during their regular season matchup, but fell to them in the second round of the playoffs. In a season full of unknowns, and a world riddled with upheaval Buchanan was, as he always is, steady. This consistency and resilience earned him the honor of 2020 KFCA Coach of the Year.
Former Rockcastle County Head Coach and current Taylor County Assistant to the Head Coach Scott Parkey’s thoughts on the 2020 season were, “full of uncertainty for all of us as coaches. We all had questions, ideas, ‘our ways,’ but no solid answers on a best practice to move on with player safety as the priority. Coach Buchanan rose up as a leader, guiding and focusing our attention to the things that matters the most–the kids. His leadership, through emails, phone calls, and face to face meetings with KHSAA leaders and Kentucky government elected officials gave the coaches a voice for our student-athletes.
“My son Noah was a senior in 2020. Without question, he and other seniors across the state suffered from the
impact of COVID, but although it was an abbreviated season for him and many others, they were able to experience that unbelievable feeling of playing a senior season of football for their school and community. Without Coach Buchanan, his foresight, his guidance, and his genuine love for high school football, I’m not sure it would have happened at all.”
In his final year leading the Titans, Mercer came in ready to contend. Quarterback Trosper Buchanan threw for 1500+ yards and 16 touchdowns. Senior running back Brayden Dunn would have 1000+ yards on the ground with 15 touchdowns. Overall, the Titans would finish fourth in the state with 350 points scored and 217 points allowed and a 9-3 record only stumbling to district rival CAL and 6A state semifinalist Bryan Station.
Buchanan’s resignation came as a surprise to many. In a statement he shared on social media Buchanan wrote “I am forever grateful and thankful for what has been an incredible, once in a lifetime experience.” Buchanan finishes his tenure at Mercer with a record of 50-32 after the Titans had gone 36-55 in the seven seasons prior to his leadership.
He led the Titans for seven seasons and established an expectation that everyday was another day to compete. Buchanan’s time on the Titan sideline should be looked back on as nothing less than extraordinary, however his greatest impact has come in moments far away from the lights of Alvis Johnson Field.
Soon after David Buchanan’s statement was released in the evening of Thursday, Jan. 20, messages of support and admiration came pouring in. Former parents, players, coaches and administrators who have been impacted by Buchanan reflected very little on what is an impressive coaching resume. The sentiment was one of admiration for the man Buchanan is.
Jonathan Thomas (@gunn_54) on Twitter wrote, “Can’t even put into words what Coach Buchanan means to my family and myself. Servant leadership at its best. He has touched many lives including mine, God has definitely used him to do his work. Thanks for being a blessing since 1996!”
As more responses flooded in, people described Buchanan repeatedly with the word “class.” Members of the media added their support reflecting on the character and integrity with which he carries himself. One thing no one has ever doubted is that Buchanan loves his players. Bryan Kennedy (@BKennedyTV ) on Twitter remarked, “Best of luck coach. No one was ever more welcoming and I don’t think I ever saw a coach who cared more about his guys.”
Hundreds from across the state expressed the impact Buchanan had on them. For many, he is a father figure, 30 seasons mentoring young men will present many opportunities to influence them into future leaders and Buchanan never missed one. Coaches across Kentucky thanked him for his contributions, to not only their coaching career, but his impact on football in the Bluegrass.
The onslaught of gratitude re-enforced what Mercer County has known about him all along. Yes, he took a consistently middling program to a consistent winner, but more so he took a program whose identity was rooted in the past and gave them an identity moving towards the future.
Buchanan gave his all to his hometown. For evidence of this look no further than the countless band competitions, middle school basketball games, volleyball games, youth football games, softball games, baseball games, archery competitions and pretty much every other event where Mercer County students were competing or performing. There would be the head football coach, not to recruit the best softball outfielder to play cornerback next fall, (well maybe), but because he genuinely cares about each and every student at Mercer County.
The founder of Starbucks Coffee, Howard Schultz, once said, “If you pour your heart into your work, or into any worthy enterprise, you can achieve dreams others may think impossible.” Buchanan did what many thought was impossible. He took a struggling Mercer County program and united them behind a vision, “Find A Way To Win” and they did.
More than that he did the impossible. In an industry driven by competition, he is honest, fair and loyal. He would truly rather lose than cheat to win. His integrity is unmatched, his heart reaches the county line and his legacy will live on in Titan lore.
Numerous studies indicate someone’s first impression will be their lasting impression. In the case of Buchanan, my first impression was spot on. In every observable area of his life, as a football coach, father, husband, leader, person of faith, friend and companion Coach David Buchanan is the real deal.
The Mercer County Titans will begin their search for a new head coach under the direction of Athletic Director Donald Smith. Smith said of Coach Buchanan’s resignation “To be honest, Coach Buchanan’s resignation caught me off guard. It has been a very tough 48 hours. I am happy for David but sad for the Titan family. David is more than just a coach, he is a great friend also. David is a great leader, coach and person. As a parent, I am thankful my son had the opportunity to play football under his leadership and have his influence in his life as a coach and an outstanding man of God. He is truly leaving the football program in a great position for the next coach. Friday nights will be very different in 2022, but the powerful impact he has had on our football team, school system and community will continue to play out on the field and in our lives! We pray the best for Coach Buchanan and his family and we look forward to seeing future accomplishments in this next phase of his life! Coach B’s daily presence will be missed.”
Smith begins the process of selecting a new head football coach soon and will decide on a candidate in the next two to four weeks leaving time to make the best decision for Titan football.