Replacing a legend
By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
CRYSTAL RIVER -- When the most successful football coach in Crystal River history was looking for someone to carry on his legacy, all he had to do was glance to the right.
As in right-hand man Jere DeFoor.
An assistant under Earl Bramlett for 17 sea sons prior to taking over the reigns, DeFoor seemed like -- and proved to be -- the perfect choice for the Pirates.
"I can't think of a better person to turn it over to than coach DeFoor," Bramlett said the day DeFoor was named as his replacement.
"He's been with us for many, many years and deserves much of the credit I get," Bramlett said. "He's been a loyal and dedicated assistant, and he's worked every day I've worked."
Bramlett's words would prove prophetic. Crystal River didn't skip a beat under its new head coach. The Pirates repeated as district champions for the fifth consecutive year, advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the second straight season and captured a fifth consecutive Gulf Coast Athletic Conference title.
Much of the credit can be chalked up to talent and a take what you can get system that had been in place for 15 previous years. The rest, however, should go to DeFoor, who molded that talent into a championship team and weathered the controversy that always seemed to hover around star fullback Nate Madison.
Madison rushed for 1,096 yards and 19 touchdowns through the first nine games of the season, capping the effort with a 128-yard, three-touchdown performance in a 33-7 district-clinching win over Central.
However, trouble had been brewing for a while. Madison had missed a game against Lecanto for disciplinary reasons, then left the team for good after the victory over Central, citing personal differences between himself and the school administration.
It was at this point DeFoor proved he wasn't just a figurehead running the Crystal River program on autopilot but a qualified coach able to create success despite severe adversity.
With Madison lost for the remainder of the season, DeFoor was forced to alter his game plan and make the best of what he had. That included multi-talented quarterback Clayton Trenary and running backs Charlie Merino, Ryan McNally and Chiante Smith.
DeFoor then proved his mettle in a season-ending 47-7 shellacking of Lake Weir and an equally impressive 31-0 pounding of Tampa Blake in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, squeezing the most from what he had.
Smith was the breakout player against Lake Weir, rushing for a career-high 128 yards. Trenary, in addition to punting and returning kicks, passed for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
Against Blake, seven different ball carriers combined for 297 yards, including a game-high 103 from McNally, 65 from Trenary and 50 from Smith.
DeFoor and the Pirates weren't able to get it done in their second-round game against Tampa Jesuit, losing 14-0 after committing three turnovers.
In a way, it was a fitting end. DeFoor had all but matched the success of his predecessor in wins and coaching ability, yet had come up a victory short of Bramlett's best season at Crystal River.
DeFoor has the upcoming season to try and top the mark of his mentor. Helping matters is the fact the Pirates lose just five players.
"I'd like to think we'll be what we were when we played Lake Weir, Blake and Jesuit," DeFoor said after the loss. "Clayton ran a lot during that stretch, and we threw more too.
"We'll just try to take what they give us."
Some things never change.
Jere DeFoor: The first season
JUNE 21: Earl Bramlett retires after more than 35 years of coaching. He and Crystal River principal Craig Marlett announce Jere DeFoor as Bramlett's replacement, pending confirmation from the school board.
JULY 11: DeFoor confirmed by Citrus County school board.
AUG. 10: Football practice officially starts.
AUG. 25: DeFoor picks up his first victory, 30-7 over St. Petersburg Boca Ciega in pre-season classic.
SEPT. 1: DeFoor gets his first official win as the Pirates take advantage of four South Sumter turnovers in a 42-21 game.
SEPT. 8: DeFoor records his first victory in Citrus County's oldest rivalry as Nate Madison rushes for 183 yards and a touchdown in a 36-3 decision over Citrus.
SEPT. 15: Madison rushes for 142 yards and two touchdowns and Ryan McNally runs for 103 yards and a touchdown in a 42-12 win over Wildwood.
SEPT. 22: A.J. Davis returns the opening kickoff 73 yards and Madison (179 yards) scores on the next play in a 35-0 victory.
SEPT. 29: Michael Jones rushes for 104 yards on three attempts, has a 9-yard touchdown reception, intercepts a pass and forces a fumble to spark Crystal River to a 35-14 win over Dunnellon.
OCT. 6: Madison rushes for 91 of his game-high 117 yards in the second half of a 21-0 victory.
OCT. 20: With Madison suspended for "disciplinary reasons," Ryan McNally rushes for a game-high 172 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-20 win over Lecanto.
OCT. 27: Another first for DeFoor -- his first loss -- comes in a 34-20 shootout with Belleview. Crystal River quarterback/safety Clayton Trenary returns a kickoff 99 yards for a score, recovers and returns a fumble 92 yards for a touchdown and records a game-high 17 tackles.
NOV. 3: DeFoor clinches his first district title in a 33-7 win over Central. Madison, in his last game as a Pirate, rushes for 128 yards and three touchdowns.
NOV. 7: Madison does not show up for practice and quits school.
NOV. 10: Freshman Chianta Smith rushes for 128 yards and Trenary completes two touchdown passes in a 47-7 victory over Lake Weir. DeFoor finishes his first regular season at 9-1.
NOV. 17: Seven ball carriers combine for 297 yards as DeFoor pickes up his first playoff victory in a 31-0 game against Tampa Blake.
NOV. 21: DeFoor is named the coach of the Florida Athletic Coaches Association District 8 All-Star Team. Guard John Malott is named first-team offense.
NOV. 24: DeFoor suffers his first post-season loss, 14-0 to Tampa Jesuit. He finishes his first season as a head coach with a 10-2 record and district and conference championships.
DEC. 9: DeFoor is named Times Citrus/Hernando Coach of the Year. Trenary is named player of the year. Eight more Pirates are named to first team.
DEC. 13: DeFoor is named Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. Six Pirates make first team.
-- CAREY FREEMAN
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111