Brahmans turn around football program in 2020

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OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee High School Brahman football season came to an end after their playoff match with Sebastian River.

A 5-yard touchdown run by Sebastian River late in the fourth quarter proved to be all that was needed for the Sharks to get the 7-0 win over Okeechobee. Still, the Brahmans nearly had a response to that late touchdown on their ensuing drive.

Lee Edouard connected with Leon Edouard for a 35-yard pass on a fourth-and-15 that moved the Brahmans down to the Sharks 12-yard line with a few minutes remaining. But two plays later Sebastian River intercepted the ball, ending the Okeechobee drive.

Although they fell in the final game, the 2020 season has been a remarkable turnaround for the Brahman football program.

Okeechobee finished with a 5-4 record this year, their first winning season since 2016. From 2017 through 2019, the team had only won five games total. And in 2018, the Brahmans lost every game they played.

That all changed this year. Even with a pandemic raging and interrupting normal offseason workouts, Brahman players committed to getting better. Head coach Ty Smith held workouts via Zoom to keep kids engaged and active. When practices resumed after months of being away, there was a sense that the kids had gained a new appreciation for the time they’d get to spend with their teammates.

Seniors Tyrone Thomas and Jihad Yamin stepped up to help keep the young Brahman team accountable.

That work paid off this season and was evident right away when the Brahmans opened the season against the Moore Haven Terriers on Sept. 11. Last season the two teams battled back and forth with Moore Haven eventually running away with the game in the second half. But this year, it was all Okeechobee for all four quarters. The Brahmans dominated the Terriers en route to a 32-6 win.

Their best performance came in their last home game of the season against Glades Day. The Brahmans gave the hometown crowd a show to remember, beating the Gators 62-27.

The team is still young, particularly at the skill position. And if those players came back next year, Okeechobee could be a dangerous team — especially with a normal offseason and an actual spring game under their belt.

For some of the seniors who were on those previous teams that struggled, this season has been vindicating, even with the bittersweet ending.

“I’m proud of my teammates and coaches for turning the program around,” said senior Josh Suarez. “It feels great knowing some of the seniors never gave up after going 0-10, then 2-8 as well. Some of them left us and gave up, but the ones that hung in there did a heck of a job. I wish the season didn’t end like this, but my underclassmen understand what they have to do to improve next year.”

“My message for them is just to work hard and hold each other accountable,” concluded Suarez.

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