Branford looks to end playoff drought
Published: Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 2, 2013 at 9:24 p.m.
The Branford Buccaneers went through some changes in the 2012 season.
2012 record: 3-7
Coach: Roy Harden (Second year at Branford, 11th overall. 3-7 at Branford, 44-55 overall)
Key games: Oct. 4 at Jefferson County; Nov. 1 vs. Lafayette[ Nov. 8 at Bell
Players to watch: Travis Bass, Sr. QB/WR/DB; Nick Edington, Sr. RB; Alec Burt, Sr. RB; Jerry Chavez, Sr. LB; Matt Spivey, Sr. LB.
(all games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted)
Aug. 30 Aucilla Christian (Monticello)
Sept. 6 at Trenton
Sept. 13 at Oak Hall 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Bronson
Sept. 27 John Paul II (Tallahassee)
Oct. 4 at Jefferson County (Monticello)*
Oct. 11 Bishop Snyder (Jacksonville)
Oct. 18 at Hamilton County*
Oct. 25 Idle
Nov. 1 Lafayette*
Nov. 8 at Bell
*District 5-1A games
The biggest of these was Roy Harden, a Branford alum who returned to his alma mater after nine seasons as head coach at nearby Bell.
Branford got off to a pretty good start, going 3-3 with two of those losses coming to 2011 1A state champion Jefferson County and last year's 1A runner-up Trenton.
But the Bucs dropped their final four games, with losses to Hamilton County and Lafayette knocking Branford out of playoff contention. Then the final game of the season saw a 28-14 loss to rival Bell.
Harden sees reason for optimism heading into this fall.
"We are going to rely plenty on our offensive line," Harden said. "They have to play better, but we have been working hard with the line in the offseason. We expect to see improvement there."
Junior running back Nick Edington returns for Branford after rushing for 234 yards and four TDs in 2012. He is the leading returning rusher after last season's leading rusher, Cole Lamb, transferred to Suwannee. Harden knows the Bucs will also rely heavily on Edington. Alec Burt will also see time in the backfield.
"Edington will play mostly at fullback," Harden said. "We usually run the Wing-T, but this year we are going to run the option, or flexbone, and will need Nick a lot this year."
Senior Travis Bass returns as a dual-threat quarterback and will also line up at receiver. Bass had 19 carries and 15 receptions for the Bucs in 2012, but makes his biggest impact as a defensive back. Bass is the leading returning tackler for Branford with 52 stops and an interception last season. Senior linebacker Jerry Chavez, senior linebacker Matt Spivey and junior defensive back Brandon Wilson will also be counted on to lead the defense.
"Defensively we have to do a better job tackling," Harden added. "We struggled at that last year and will have to be better this year to be successful."
Harden is eager to get Branford back on the field in his second season, if not to get the taste of the end of the 2012 season out of his and his players mouths.
"We had a combination of injuries and a tough schedule at the end of last season," Harden said. "We definitely lost some key players to injury at the end. We hope to stay healthier."
Branford was last in the state playoffs in 2000. Harden would love to end the 13 year drought this season. And even though the players are responding better and are now used to Harden's system, an extremely tough District 5-1A awaits.
"We are still in with Jefferson County, Lafayette and Hamilton County," Harden said. "It's going to be quite a test because all of those teams have been in the postseason recently. But we look forward to proving ourselves as well."