Brahman football head coach Chris Branham resigns

OKEECHOBEE — After spending 16 years with the Okeechobee Brahmans, head coach Chris Branham has resigned from the program.

Branham announced his decision on Twitter and has also announced that he has accepted a position as wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator at Toombs County High School located in south eastern Georgia.

The Okeechobee Brahman offense huddles around head coach Chris Branham late in the forth quarter of their game against Sebastian River on Oct. 18. Photo by R. Marion.

“I want to say how special the last 16 years have been as part of Brahman football,” Branham stated in the Twitter post which went up around 1 p.m. on June 11. “As my family and I move on to Toombs Co., Ga. I will carry all the memories with me forever. God Bless.”
Branham then concluded the post with a hashtag that read ‘Once a Brahman, always a Brahman.’

Okeechobee High School athletic director Kenny Buckner said that during his time with the team, Branham was the perfect person for the job.

“It’s a sad day for Okeechobee but a great opportunity for Chris and his family,” said Buckner. “I’m going to miss him. He was the perfect fit for our program.”

During his time with Okeechobee the Brahmans went 45-56, including an 8-2 season in 2016 which was the best regular season win percentage in program history. During a three-year period from 2005-2008, Branham, along with running back Lonnie Pryor, led the team to a 22-19 record and two playoff appearances.

“The relationships I had with the kids here are going to be the number one thing I’m going to remember,” said Branham. “After the news came out on Twitter, I got texts and phone calls from Kareem Jones, Lonnie Pryor, and Nate Pollard. Parents from players over the last couple years were also calling to say thank you. Those are the things you think about, when you realize you made an impact on a kid or that a parent appreciates the impact you made.”

The first thoughts of making the move to Toombs County came back in early 2017 when Branham ran into a few coaching buddies at a convention in January. Former Sebring coach Jared Hamlin ran into Branham at the coaching convention and told him he had taken a job at Toombs County as their offensive coordinator with head coach Richie Marsh, former defensive coordinator at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla. As Marsh approached the pair of coaches, he had next to his side someone else Branham knew, Buddy Martin Jr., former head coach of Hardee High and current Toombs County defensive coordinator.

“We all knew each other,” explained Branham, “and as we got into the conversation they jokingly said if they ever have an opening they would give me a call. And I jokily said I might take you up on that. It was just a casual conversation, just coach banter back and forth. In February of 2018 I got a call from Richie that four of their coaches had left after the season and he asked me if I’d be interested in joining them. Richie Marsh is a tremendous man, he’s the ultimate reason I made this decision. Bar none, he’s the reason I’m leaving.”

Okeechobee defensive line coach Charlie Hartley was also offered a position on the Toombs High School football staff.

Okeechobee High School principal Dylan Tedders wants to continue moving Brahman football forward following Branham’s resignation.

“I wish him and his family the best,” said Tedders. “We will continue to move forward to ensure the football program continues to grow in a positive direction.”

Following the record breaking 2016 season, the 2017 season turned out to be an exercise in frustration. The team finished 3-7 as it attempted to overcome injuries as well as losing a number of home games due to issues with the field and missing games due to hurricane Irma.

However, in their last game of the season, Okeechobee was able to beat their longtime rival Clewiston Tigers 20-16 in a dramatic thriller. It’s a fitting last game for Branham, who when he played for Okeechobee while attending OHS, always considered the Clewiston rivalry to be one-sided in the Tigers favor.

“For me, growing up here, Clewiston was always the bully,” said Branham shortly after the game. “For us to win that game is a big thing. To be able to say that at the end of the day, no matter how the season looked, in the last game we stood firm and beat Clewiston.”

And that up-and-down nature of football from season to season is the one lesson Branham wishes to impart to the next head coach who will replace him for the 2018 school year.

“Whoever takes over the head coaching job should understand that Okeechobee is a unique situation,” Branham said. “There’s a perception that Okeechobee is a perennial power, but it’s not the reality. We have very good years, but you also have the lulls and the rebuilding. You have to understand that you’re going to have the peaks and valleys. You also have to understand that you’re expected to be more than just an Xs and Os football coach. You have to embrace the fact that to some of your kids, you’re the closest thing they have to a mentor or a father. You just have to embrace that.”

The Okeechobee Brahman football team raises their helmets after a practice in 2017. Photo by R. Marion.

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