OHS wins dramatic thriller in Clewiston

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Brahmans defeated the Clewiston Tigers, 20-16, on Friday, Nov. 3, at Cane Field in Clewiston, ending their 2017 season with a win.

Earlier in the game Okeechobee was trailing Clewiston, 9-0, with only two minutes left in the first half. Desperately needing a score, the Brahman offense took over around their own 40-yard line. The Tiger defense had been stifling thus far in the game, particularly their run defense. Okeechobee needed a big pass play to spark them and set the Tigers defense back on their heels.

Right on cue OHS senior quarterback Kysell Richardson hit senior Malcolm Chambers in stride for a 50-yard pass that put the Brahmans on the Clewiston 11-yard line. A few plays later the Brahmans punched it in for the touchdown to bring the score to 9-7.

Clewiston received the kickoff with only 20 seconds remaining in the game and instead of taking a knee the Tigers came out passing and looking to score. That decision came back to haunt them, however, when OHS senior Lamar Williams stripped the Clewiston quarterback mid-pass, scooped up the ball and rumbled in for another Okeechobee touchdown with eight seconds left on the clock.

Just like that the Brahmans turned a 9-0 deficit to a 9-14 lead and completely shifted the momentum of the game.

Clewiston fans in attendance for the schools homecoming were in shock at the turn of events. The Tigers had been dominating the entire first half up to that point. The Brahmans would go on to win after successfully holding off a late Clewiston rally. Okeechobee head coach Chris Branham had confidence that his team would respond after falling behind early.

“You could just feel it on the sideline,” said Branham. “I remember going up to our defensive coordinator and telling him, ‘If you hold them to nine points, we’re gonna win this game.’ We had a lot of things working for us, we just weren’t catching the ball. And then Malcolm Chambers had the big catch that put us in scoring range. Defensively we played fantastic and offensively we were able to score enough points to win the game.”

The Nov. 3 match up between Okeechobee and Clewiston was the 66th time the two teams have met over the years, which is the second most games between two teams in the area behind Vero Beach and Martin County. Historically, the rivalry has been one sided, with Clewiston winning 51 of the 66 games. But beginning in 2007 the series became a bit more even with Okeechobee winning five of the eleven games from 2007 to 2017. The victory on Friday, along with last year’s win make it two years in a row that the Brahmans have defeated the Tigers, something that has only happened twice in Okeechobee history.

“For me, growing up here, Clewiston was always the bully,” explained Branham. “They were great every year, always had winning seasons. We’ve talked about the history of the rivalry to our kids. Clewiston doesn’t even look at us as their rival. They just see it as another game around the lake. When I was playing football here when I was younger, I remember old timers coming up to me and saying, ‘Are we going to beat Clewiston this year,’ that was from guys who were in their 60s asking that same question. 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.”

The Brahmans now end their season with a 3-7 record on the year, with their wins coming against Port St Lucie, Bayside and now Clewiston.

“We’re extremely proud of the kids,” Branham said. “Very excited for them to end with a victory, especially against Clewiston. On the other side of things though, it’s a little frustrating because we felt like we beat a better team on Friday than we had lost to in the four weeks prior to this game. We felt like we should’ve won those games, and if we would have we would be 7-3 and looking at a shot in the playoffs. But at the end of the day we didn’t, and now we get to stay home and start packing up equipment.”

Okeechobee is losing 18 seniors this year. Players who have shown up in big moments all year for the Brahmans, like Jajuan Cherry, Lamar Williams, Malcolm Chambers, Kysell Richardson, Jarret Mills, Koby Chapman, and George Marshall have all played their last down as a Brahman. Every member of the senior class was a crucial contributor to the team on both sides of the ball.

“When I stopped coaching in 2008,” Branham explained, “I stayed at the high school for the following year then moved over to Osceola Middle School from 2010 through 2012. About 12 of the seniors on this team were at Osceola in the sixth grade at that time. I’ve known them for quite a long time. There’s a lot of players who’s parents I grew up with, and I’ve been around them since they were born. So it’s a special group. I mean every group is special and has something you remember about them, but this group is the one that honestly inspired me to come back to coach at Okeechobee High School. They were there in sixth grade talking to me about football all the time in middle school saying ‘coach one day we want to play football at the high school.’ I had no intention of coming back to coach. But I did and I’ve been with his group of young men since. I’ve been with them for six or seven years so it feels like watching my own kids leave. It’s not easy. But I’m proud of them and expect great things out of each one of them.”

 

Okeechobee vs. Clewiston, Nov. 3, 2017. The Okeechobee Brahman offense scores on a short touchdown run late in the second half of the game against the Clewiston Tigers. This touchdown and a defensive touchdown on the Tigers next possession proved to be the turning point in the game. Photo by Richard Marion.

 

 

 

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