Brahmans football team wrap up spring practice

OKEECHOBEE — The Brahman football team stayed healthy for the most part and that is one of the best things coaches could mention when they reviewed football spring practice sessions.

The weather wasn’t too bad and the kids got in a lot of work this spring, Coach Chris Branham said.

That is until the last week. Lightning and rain interrupted practice sessions for the entire week and also washed out and cancelled the purple white scrimmage that has become an annual tradition.

Coach Chris Branham said the team suffered some injuries in their 45-26 victory over John Carroll on May 12 that prevented the team from holding the intersquad scrimmage. Some kids, disappointed that they didn’t get to play much in that game, left the team and didn’t return for the final week of preparation for a game they would have played in.

“This was the first spring game since I’ve been coach. I was excited about the way we performed. We put in a new offense with more run pass options. We spread the defense out and let Bubba Fludd make decisions. We finished with 400-plus yards in three quarters. You can’t complain about that,” he said.

Fludd was knocked out of the game and suffered a mouth injury but should be fully healthy for the fall. Some 26 colleges visited the Okeechobee campus this spring, most of them interested in Fludd.

Branham said he was pleased with the offense overall. He noted the wide receivers contributed well. Juanyae Ford caught a long pass and Malcolm Chambers was a reliable target. Andravious Stallworth caught a touchdown pass on offense.

“He had a great spring game and I’m very excited for him. He has worked so hard to make himself a play maker and he did that in the spring game,” he added.

He said other highlights on offense were the strong running of Lamar Williams, and the play of newcomer Devonte Louellman. Branham called him a sleeper for the team.

“He might have surprised some others but he didn’t surprise the coaches. We know about his vision and what he is capable of doing.”

Branham also played Juanyae Ford for his solid play on both sides of the ball and mentioned Jermaine Moore as a player who can contribute.

The offensive line had some injuries and only seven were physically able to play for the final week of practice. Branham said he has developed some solid players there. The offensive center will be Caleb Smith, Joseph Benjamin, Nolan Carpenter, and Evan Neal will be starters while Royce Arnold and Koby Chapman are in the mix for the fifth starting role. Eli McMullen, who attended a long snapper national competition in Las Vegas, last week, provides depth. He is ranked as the #5 long snapper in the nation for his graduation class of 2017.

Branham said part of the reason he cancelled the Purple White game was the lack of healthy offensive linemen. He didn’t want to force the linemen to play the entire game without leaving the field which would have increased the risk of injury to them.

Linebacker is another thing area. Juanyae Ford and Matthew Garcia earned starting role with their play this spring. Lamar Williams could be forced to play both ways. Bracen Harvey stepped in despite a broken thumb, and played well.

“We saw some potential there. Right now there is a linebacker shortage,” he noted.

The team also looked strong and deep in the secondary. Stallworth, Chambers, Moore, Jajuan Cherry, Fludd and Deshon Wellington will be battling for playing time in the fall.

Coach Branham said he felt like he found some solid defensive linemen but most of them are also offensive linemen.

Jarrett Mills also remains a strong punter and place kicker for the squad.

“The first group is very strong but the biggest concern is the backups. In the game of football, regardless of how good you are you will have injuries. We must be interchangeable. Right now we may have only 24-26 kids,” he said. He also said that all of his players will have to be warriors and be able to play at a moments notice.

“I think this group of kids has that warrior mentality. We’ll keep on pushing them and keep trying to get everything we can out of them.

I’m very encouraged at the end of spring,” he added.

The team has a long schedule of camps this summer which include an offensive linemen camp at Webber International University in late June, a Men of Distinction Camp on June 13, a camp at Florida International from June 11-12, a camp at Florida Atlantic University on June 14. Other camps are planned at the University of Miami and the University of Florida. The team could also attend a full-team camp at Webber at the beginning of August.

“It was a very busy and eventful spring with a lot of exposure for our kids. We put a lot of work in,” he said.

Branham said the district will again be very talented and competitive. Sebastian River could be ranked in the state along with Heritage. Eau Gallie and Jensen Beach figure to be improved and Bayside is another team to watch. Branham predicted that the 2016 season will be the last one with district alignments. He said the FHSAA has proposed to switch to four regions per classification with no districts. Schools would be allowed to play any team in any classification at their pleasure. Playoff teams would be determined by complicated ranking systems based on records, and strength of schedule.

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