High School Sports

As new AC Flora coach settles in, he savors opportunity he always hoped for

Westwood coach Dustin Curtis after win over Blythewood

Dustin Curtis talks about Westwood's 28-9 victory over Blythewood
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Dustin Curtis talks about Westwood's 28-9 victory over Blythewood

Dustin Curtis was named the head coach of A.C. Flora in April, but he’s not in an unfamiliar place.

To Curtis, A.C. Flora is home. He spent seven years as a Falcons assistant, including three years as offensive coordinator, before becoming head coach at Westwood in 2016.

“I’ve always hoped to have the opportunity to come back here,” Curtis said. “This is the only place at this point in time I would’ve considered applying for.”

During Curtis’ first stint, A.C. Flora won four region championships and reached the state semifinals twice.

“My seven years here were a really great experience, and I think they’re what made me into who I am today as a coach,” Curtis said. “The community is very tight-knit and supportive. My family and I have very much enjoyed Forest Acres. Just to be holistically a part of this community where we live, go to church and now go to school is something that as a family we can’t pass up.”

When Curtis was offensive coordinator, A.C. Flora averaged 42 points per game during the playoffs.

Curtis and his coaching staff started preparing in the spring to get the Falcons back to that same level of success.

“The kids have done a great job of embracing the new coaches, schemes and ideas,” Curtis said. “Those kids really made spring ball easy. We still have a long way to go, but overall, I would call spring a pretty big success. We had a great turnout for our spring game. The community was very supportive that night, so we know that’s a positive sign of things to come.”

Preparing for a new season comes with a major challenge, considering how late Curtis was hired. He replaced Collin Drafts, who announced in late March he was leaving A.C. Flora to become head coach at Nease High School in Florida.

“Getting hired in late April makes things tight,” Curtis said. “The kids have been fantastic, and the support of administration is making it easy. I’m playing catch-up a little bit as far as long-range planning goes. We’ve got some talented young players. I believe we are going to be a different team in region games than we are early in the year. The tradition here is planning and hoping to win a region title.”

The Falcons also had at least 25 seniors graduate last season, but that did not stop Curtis from motivating his team in their first meeting.

“I told them if they didn’t realize how special of a school they were at, that they would know,” Curtis said. “They’ve been through a lot of coaching turnovers in their high school careers, as I’m their third head coach.”

Curtis’ first season as a Falcons assistant in 2009 was under then head coach Dean Howell, who went 37-12 in four seasons. Reggie Shaw was head coach from 2013-2016 and went 29-20. A.C. Flora had a 61-36 record from 2010-2017.

Curtis went 13-11 in his final two seasons at Westwood and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, defeating a higher-seeded team both years. He was also named Region 3 AAAA Coach of the Year in 2017.

But he does not plan on A.C. Flora being a stop along the way in his coaching career.

“I plan to bring some stability and be here for a long time,” Curtis said. “I made sure that the guys knew this wasn’t a stepping stone job for me. It’s a destination. It’s where I want my kid to graduate high school. We are going to do the best we can to build the best 4A program from top to bottom.”