DeShon Brock’s second season as Bradwell Institute head football coach is about to commence.
Brock, who led Mitchell County to four straight playoff appearances, wants to bring Bradwell back to its once usual perch as one of the Coastal Empire’s top programs. “I am tasked with bringing Bradwell Institute football back to respectability,” he said to the Kiwanis Club of Liberty County last week.
He also wants to bring stability to the program. The Tigers have had five head coaches in the last 10 seasons. During that span, Bradwell has made the state playoffs just three times.
“Change over at the top is a program killer,” Brock said.
The Tigers have advanced past the first round just once since 2009. After six seasons of at least 10 wins from 1976-88, Bradwell has had only two 10-win seasons since, and none since 1997.
On the field, the Tigers have to replace middle linebacker Eli Leiataua, the Region 2-6A defensive player of the year.
Junior offensive lineman Elyjah Thurmon, an all-region selection in 2021, is beginning to draw interest from several top college programs. One of the few players not ranked by recruiting services at a University of Florida camp, Thurmon, 6-foot-3 and 271 pounds, excelled there and earned a scholarship offer from the Gators.
But it’s a new region for the Tigers this year, too. Bradwell dropped down to Class AAAAA and the new region stretches from Greenbrier in the Augusta suburbs to Waycross. The former region was more compact, ranging from Springfield and Statesboro to Brunswick.
Bradwell opens the season with two long-standing rivals, Wayne County in the first game, and then crosstown foe Liberty County in week 2. Former Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who had a successful stint at Rabun County, has come south to take over the Yellow Jackets program.
Bradwell went to several summer camps, including a number of 7 on 7s and a camp at Camden County.
With realignment, Bradwell is now in Region 1-AAAAA. The Tigers were in 2-AAAAAA a year ago, in a region that went from Effingham County and Statesboro in the north to Glynn Academy and Brunswick in the south.
Only Statesboro remains as a region opponent this year. The new region stretches from Greenbrier, in the Augusta suburbs, to Waycross, home of Ware County.
The numbers, though, may be turning in Brock’s favor in his second year. The team finished with 45 players a year ago. They enter the final week of the preseason with a roster of 80.
“That is tremendous growth in less than a year,” Brock said. “I think our future is very bright. We will get it turned around sooner rather than later.”