For JeVar Bransome, time is crucial to his rebuilding of the Southeast Raleigh football program. This summer, finally, time is on his side.
Bransome, entering his second season as the Bulldogs’ head coach, is able to smile a little bit more this summer. Southeast Raleigh, like most local schools, has hit the ground running with the summer 7-on-7 sessions, and Bransome bounces from field to field, shouting encouragement to his team.
Around this time last year, Bransome, who had coaching stops at Franklinton, Rolesville and Hillside before coming to Southeast Raleigh, was so far behind the curve that he didn’t even know all his players’ names.
He wasn’t hired until June and only 25 players showed up for summer workouts. It’s nearly impossible to run a successful 4A program with just 25 players. When camp started in August, the number doubled, but because half of the team was just showing up for the first time, Bransome didn’t know who they were or what position they played.
The Bulldogs went into their first game of 2018 with six sophomores and one freshman in the starting lineup and one player on the field with any varsity experience.
“That was kind of rough for game one,” Bransome said.
The Bulldogs lost 17-0 to West Carteret and things went downhill from there. Southeast Raleigh, once one of the premier programs in Wake County, struggled in the Cap-7 and went 0-11, a black eye for the program. Bransome remembers coaching against the Bulldogs and how tough they were on the field. It was a proud tradition at the school, even though it didn’t open until 1997.
Bransome vows to get it back. He’s all about tradition, even inviting back some former Southeast Raleigh players to speak to the current team. The biggest thing he’s seen this summer is commitment from the team, who trust him now that he’s been around for a full season.
From the 25 who showed up for off season workouts last summer, Bransome had that many at a recent 7-on-7. Once they saw the commitment from him and the coaching staff, the players followed with no issues.
“Southeast has tradition,” Bransome said. “I told the kids all we have to do is win. The kids are seeing that we are building.”
The 0-11 season was preceded by a 4-7 campaign. In 2016, the Bulldogs went 9-4 and advanced to the playoffs, but that was no longer the norm, who averaged nine wins a year from 2006-2011. That span includes three straight 10-win seasons from 2008-2010.
Too many 4-7 seasons followed - three in a row - and the emergence of other powerhouses in Wake County put Southeast Raleigh in the bottom half of the standings more times than not.
Bransome doesn’t want to use starting late last summer as an excuse, rather calling it a reality that caused a forgettable season.
He even went back to the drawing board himself over the summer, searching for ways to get better at his job.
“We didn’t have a good season last year, but I did my job of going to clinics and talking to my peers, trying to figure out how to get this team better,” Bransome said. “Time was our enemy. Time and experience. If you say I wasn’t a great coach, that’s fine, but the kids see now that I am invested, the coaches are invested.”
He now asks the community, desperate to get back to winning ways, to have some patience while he attempts to get Southeast back on track. He remains confident it can be done.
“Three to five years changes a culture,” Bransome said. “This is year two. I’m not going to say it’ll take 3-5 years, but people will see a big difference in Southeast football this year.”