ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Few high school football programs in northeast Florida have been as consistently successful as Bartram Trail.
Over the past 11 seasons, the Bears have averaged nearly 10 wins per season. In that stretch, they’ve never had fewer than eight wins. Darrell Sutherland has been the head coach since the school opened in 2000 and there is only one honor to have eluded the Bears since — a state title.
Could this be the year?
Bartram Trail is off to a 4-0 start in 2022 with wins over Ponte Vedra, Daytona Beach Seabreeze, Daytona Beach Mainland, and Tallahassee Lincoln. The Bartram defense has held the opposition to seven points or fewer in three of those four games. Senior defensive back Sharif Denson, a Florida commit, is considered one of the best at his position in the country. While the Bears defense has shined, Denson isn’t satisfied.
“We just need to work on everyone (doing) their specific job,” Denson said. “We’ll have plays on the defense where or we’ll have games where we play really good. And then we’ll have games we play really bad, but it’s because we don’t do our job. So everybody has to do their individual job on offense and defense. I feel like we’re going to keep elevating every single week.”
The offense is led by junior quarterback Riley Trujillo and junior running back Laython Biddle, both of whom have had games of 100 rushing yards or more this season. They know that most of the time if they limit mistakes, the Bears stand an excellent chance to win, but that doesn’t mean they are without some firepower. Against Seabreeze, the Bears scored 38 points in the victory.
“I feel like it’s bringing us closer every day,” Biddle said.”We lost a lot of guys last year, but we all came up all got better, and we still get better every single day. That’s why we were so good.”
Sutherland has a reputation for developing a strong culture within his program. It’s the foundational bedrock on which he builds his coaching plan. In typical Sutherland fashion, he credited others for the successful culture he’s built at Bartram Trail.
“I definitely get a lot of credit for a whole bunch of other people’s hard work,” Sutherland said. “We’ve got a great coaching staff, they’re great coaches, but they’re even better men. And they’re a huge part of what creates our culture here. And it’s really just staying focused on the same thing we’ve stayed focused on since day one, and that’s about player development and man development.”
On Friday, Bartram will host St. Augustine, a traditional rival. The Yellow Jackets won the first 19 games between the two schools before the Bears won for the first time in 2018. They now won four straight. With St. Augustine coming off a convincing win over Menendez, Sutherland expects another tough matchup in the St. Johns County rivalry.
“They’re a great football program,” Sutherland said. “And we know they’re really well coached. We have a lot of respect for the coaching staff and for their football program. We know it’s going to be great competition. It’s going to be a great game.”