‘It meant everything:’ Bulldogs recall run to state championship game in ’99
LIVE OAK — There, sitting on top of the refrigerator, was the goal, the expectation, the prize.
It was there where Matt Jackson saw it every single day.
The son of Suwannee assistant coach Jimmy Jackson and one of the star players on the 1999 SHS football team, Jackson got a visual reminder daily of the carrot dangling out in front of that group of Bulldogs: a state championship, the ring that went with it and a return to glory for Suwannee High.
“My dad used to have the rings sitting in the box on top of the refrigerator, all four,” Jackson said this summer recalling that season 20 years ago. “And I would see those rings. He didn’t brag or anything like, ‘You got to get you one of these.’ But I was like, ‘Shoot, I want me one of those.’
“So that was a little unsaid motivation amongst us.”
It was a goal that had long belonged to those Bulldogs. Growing up in Live Oak when Mike Pittman coached SHS to four straight state championships from 1987 to 1990, the ’99 Dogs remembered those glory days well.
With football fever hitting North Florida, high school stadiums are ready to be packed with energized crowds, ready for something to send another charge through them. Whether it's a scintillating touchdown run, a devastating block, a superb sack, a top-notch throw or a riveting return, each member of the Electrifying 11 is guaranteed to electrify their school's faithful throughout the 2019 campaign.
2019 Season Previews
Buccaneers look to build on playoff berth
After a grueling day at Camp Blanding during last year’s preseason camp, the Branford High seniors and coach Tim Clark sat in the barracks and discussed what they hoped to accomplish in 2018.
The goals that emerged were a winning season and a shot at the Class 1A playoffs. Mission accomplished on both fronts as Branford went 6-5 for its first winning season since 2010 and played in a postseason game for the first time since 2000.
Now, the Bucs have to try to continue to raise that bar.
Trojans eye improvement with new coach, system
New coach Richard Vester has brought tunnel vision with him to Hamilton County.
The back-to-back 1-win campaigns in 2017-18? They don’t matter to Vester.
The fact Vester is the Trojans’ third coach the past two years, fourth in three years and fifth since HCHS played for the Class 1A state title in 2014? Old news.
“We’ve really just tried to focus on the future,” said Vester, who arrived in Jasper in December after a four-year stint as head coach at Newberry. “You can’t do anything about the past, so we’re just focused on the present, the future and now more so than what happened in the past.
“We’re making our own history.”
Beach, Hornets look to continue winning tradition
With just one losing campaign in the past 23 years, winning is the expectation at Lafayette High School.
That standard is something new head coach Mark Beach knows well, having twice served as an assistant at LHS, including the past three years as offensive coordinator helping the Hornets go 25-9 in that span, including 8-4 a year ago with an appearance in the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
“I think there’s a little bit of pressure on both ends of that,” Beach said as he takes over the reigns of the program from FACA Hall of Famer Joey Pearson. “I was part of this success and now I have to create my own success.
“I’m not going to lie to you, there’s always pressure on that end of it.”
Bulldogs aim for title in new district
The district may be new for the Suwannee Bulldogs, but the goal hasn’t changed.
After barely missing out on district championships the past three years in District 3-5A, the Bulldogs are now focused on securing the title in District 2-5A.
“The first day, we talked about our No. 1 goal was to win a district championship,” Suwannee coach Kyler Hall said. “That’s been the goal since we’ve been here and we’ve been right on the edge. We got in last year with the new points system, but that just drives you so much because you’re so close.”