BRANFORD, Fla. — It was a historic season for the Branford High football team as the Buccaneers made the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
For that, Tim Clark is the 2018 Suwannee Valley Coach of the Year.
“I’ve always been big on you’re only going to reach the goals that your kids believe they can reach,” Clark said. “I put it (playoffs) on the board every day when we came in, the TV screen when we worked out, at the end of every practice. It was what we wanted.
“That got so engrained in their mind and that’s what they worked towards. When we secured that winning season and that playoff berth, what the community did after that and how these kids were praised throughout town and throughout the school was really gratifying.”
So what was the key for a team that had struggled in recent years?
It started with players. Branford had the talent to open up the playbook on offense and put up more points. And while they weren’t the fastest defense, the Buccaneers made up for it with physicality.
There was also plenty of preparation leading up to the season.
“That’s one thing we had to amp up with these kids and kind of open their eyes the past couple years. We’ve got to put more hours than anybody else on campus into what we do,” Clark said. “There’s nothing like football preparation.
“This was a really good group of kids. Way back in January they said, ‘When does spring ball start?’ Then when spring ball was done they said, ‘When are we going to start working out in the summer?’ Then it was, ‘When’s our first game?’ and ‘Who is it so we can start watching film?’ There was enough kids in that senior group that said ‘This is what we want and we’re going to go get it.’ That’s what you got to have in high school ball.”
It wasn’t an easy ride to the postseason.
The Buccaneers finished the regular season 6-4 and were fighting for the sixth and final playoff spot during the final week.
“I’m happy with it (making the playoffs) because we met the goals that we set. But at the same time, I’m not completely satisfied because I felt we left a little bit out there,” said Clark. “6-4 was good, but three of those four losses were single-digit losses. One being a huge rival game in Mayo that was just an absolute war. PK Yonge was one that was eight points in a game that we were over four-touchdown underdogs.
“Franklin County, one that we were favored to win, and we slipped up and lost by eight points. I really feel like we left one out there and that 7-3 or maybe 8-2 was a real possibility.”
It might not have been the perfect season for Branford, but Clark has the Buccaneers heading in the right direction.