Those seasons, coupled with a successful 8-3 campaign in 2017, erased a couple lean years Simpson experienced early in his head coaching tenure. In 2014, his first year, the Hawks went 1-9. They won just three times two seasons later.

Simpson righted the ship, although he was quick to point out other people’s contributions to the football program.

“What it takes to make a change is, number one: the great kids that are willing to work hard, and we’ve certainly had our share of them the last few years,” Simpson said. “Number two is the administration, and the administration is outstanding. Three is a wonderful booster’s club, we’ve had that; and four is tremendous support from the community.”

Like other football coaches throughout the country, Simpson navigated through uncertain times while the coronavirus pandemic raged.

His predicament, though, was different than others inside this newspaper’s coverage area. Every other area Virginia High School League team planned six-game schedules; Gretna, abiding by a decision handed down by Pittsylvania County’s school board, played just four in-county games against Chatham, Dan River and Tunstall. The Hawks went 1-3 in what was a strange season.

Still, the young group showed signs of promise, backed by talented athletes just learning the game at the varsity level.