Advertisement
  1. Archive

THE TOP 5 COUNTY STORIES OF THE YEAR

No. 2

In 1985, Earl Bramlett began his second stint as football coach at Crystal River.

At the time, the Pirates' playoff history could be summed up by one word: zip.

Not once had a Crystal River team reached the post-season. Not once had it captured a district title.

That changed not long after Bramlett's hiring.

The Pirates won their first district championship in 1988 and made their first trip to the playoffs.

Three years later, they captured another title and made another post-season appearance. More district championships came in 1994, '96, '97, '98 and '99.

Once a doormat, Crystal River became the area's model for success.

Bramlett, 62, called it quits last summer, doing so as the school's all-time winningest coach. From 1985-99, his teams went 112-47. Three of his final four squads won 10 or more games.

Bramlett's lengthy career began in 1948, when he suited up for his first Midget League game. He was 10.

He was a standout high school player in Rockmart, Ga., then played at the University of Tampa.

Bramlett's first head coaching position came in 1967 at Georgia's Sandy Springs High School. Four years later, he was hired at Crystal River, where he coached until 1975.

Bramlett's first stint at Crystal River was, well, uneventful. Unable to inject any life into the program, he left after four seasons.

Four stops and 10 years after leaving, Bramlett returned to Crystal River.

"I kind of felt like we hadn't accomplished as much as we wanted so I said (to his wife, Cathie), "Let's go back,' " Bramlett said.

"I really didn't do what I wanted to do. It was always there in back of my mind.

"I always felt like I left something here that I didn't really finish," he said.

This time, Bramlett got things right.

Known for his ability to turn around downtrodden programs, Bramlett quickly made Crystal River a winner.

But after first-round losses in each of the program's first three trips to the post-season, Bramlett retooled his philosophy and his offense and turned the Pirates into a region powerhouse.

In 1996, behind the newly implemented wing-T offense, he led Crystal River to a 9-1 regular-season mark and scored impressive wins over North Marion and Eustis.

The latter sent the Pirates into the third round of the playoffs for the first time in school history.

The next year, Bramlett posted the school's only undefeated regular season, then took teams into the second round of the playoffs the following two years.

"We didn't start winning in the playoffs until '96," Bramlett said. "It was just hard for our kids to realize what it took to really play with that type of competition.

"Tell you the truth, I feel fortunate about this. Just about everywhere we've gone was at rock bottom when we got there, and we always left it a winner."

Crystal River's 1996 team might have been Bramlett's best.

That year, the Pirates won the district title and were 11-1 before losing to the nation's top-ranked team, Jacksonville Bolles, in the third round of the playoffs.

Bramlett left Crystal River in good shape. During his final season, the Pirates went 9-2.

He was replaced by longtime assistant Jere DeFoor, who led Crystal River to a 10-2 finish in 2000.

Bramlett has said that he may coach again in the future. Right now, though, he is satisfied running Crystal River's athletic department.

_ CAREY FREEMAN and KEITH NIEBUHR

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement