ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Even though the St. Augustine Yellow Jackets football team made the playoffs in 2018, a first round exit, a 5-6 record, and four losses to St. Johns County rivals left a bitter taste in the mouths of head coach Brian Braddock and his staff.
That's why this spring is about fun.
"I told the kids today in the weight room the coaches are honestly having as much fun as they have had in a long time," said Braddock in his 3rd year as head coach. "That is because these kids love football, they are learning a lot, every day there is a ton of growth. I don't know how good we are, it is only May but I do know we are getting better fast so that's exciting."
Jayden McDowell is coming off a junior season with 84 tackles and two interceptions. He is one of a handful of seniors on the field at spring practice and says the fun factor has certainly risen this year.
"I got a big smile on my face," said McDowell. "It is amazing being out here with this group of guys. Everyone out here, the coaches, the staff, everyone feels the same and it's great."
McDowell is going to have to be the leader on a defense that saw two huge contributors graduate last year. Defensive lineman Darius Stanley had 11 tackles for losses and six sacks in 2018 and linebacker Nick Barlow led the Jackets in tackles with 110. Both are gone and McDowell says they have to replace their leadership first.
"It is very important, we have to set the example. We have to set the bar and standard higher than it was last year so that the young guys know what we are expecting when we are out here and how to work and prepare," said McDowell.
A big part of that learning how to work and prepare comes from the love of the game according to Braddock.
"It is fun to coach kids who want to play football," said Braddock. "The winning will come, that is fun for everybody but honestly on the day to day you have to enjoy it. When the kids love football and you are enjoying being around the kids, that makes it all worthwhile."
St. Augustine 2019 football schedule
Aug. 23, St. Augustine at Yulee
Aug. 30, St. Augustine at Menendez
Sept. 6, Flagler Palm Coast at St. Augustine
Sept. 13, St. Augustine at Bolles
Sept. 20, Bartram Trail at St. Augustine
Sept. 27, Englewood at St. Augustine
Oct. 4, Ocean City, NJ at St. Augustine
Oct. 11, Matanzas at St. Augustine
Oct. 18, St. Augustine at Nease
Oct. 25, St. Augustine at Ponte Vedra
Nov. 1, Palatka at St. Augustine
*indicates district game
All games 7 p.m.
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