Three months ago, nearly 500 high school football teams across the state opened their seasons with the goal to still be playing this week.

After three months of grueling practices and games, bumps and bruises, moments of despair and feelings of elation, three of our local teams — Suwannee, Branford and Lafayette — are part of the 228 teams that qualified for the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Whether they reach the ultimate goal of raising a state championship trophy at Camping World Stadium in Orlando in a few short weeks or whether their postseason experience is short, they all deserve a round of applause for their achievement.

The postseason berth has to be extra sweet for the Bulldogs, who had barely missed out on playoff trips the past two years. The sour taste of falling in a three-way tiebreaker shootout in 2016 and the bitter pill of barely missing out on the district title and a wild card berth a year ago must have given way to a joyous celebration Sunday when the brackets were released and Suwannee was back in the Class 5A playoffs.

In Class 1A, Lafayette has been a playoff staple. The Hornets are in the postseason for the 15th time in head coach Joey Pearson’s 20 years at the helm. Back in the playoffs for the second straight season, the Hornets now will look for their first playoff win since 2012.

Elsewhere in Class 1A’s Region 3, the Buccaneers will also open the playoffs this week and there may not have been a happier team or community than Branford this past weekend. With the Bucs’ win and the help they needed elsewhere, BHS snapped an 18-year playoff drought when it earned the sixth seed in the region. The Bucs have come a long way the past two years since coach Tim Clark took over the helm of his alma mater and they did a lot of heavy lifting to get the program back to the postseason.

So whether you’re a Bulldog or a Buccaneer or a Hornet, be proud of your team. Make the trip to Jacksonville (Suwannee at Trinity Christian) or Cross City (Branford at Dixie County) or the short drive to Dale Walker Field in Mayo for LHS’ opener against Union County.

And show your spirit once you get there.

Congratulations Bulldogs, Bucs and Hornets.

We’ve got spirit, yes we do. We’ve got spirit, how ’bout you?

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