Championship runs make McCluskey, King The Democrat’s Co-Coaches of the Year in 2006

Published 6:00 am Monday, December 25, 2006

While numerous coaches deserve credit for great team performances this season, it’s difficult to compete with a state championship.

Championship seasons are what have made David King of Trinity and Grady McCluskey of Franklin County The Democrat’s Co-Coaches of the Year.

King and his high-powered Trinity offense steamrolled through the competition for a 12-2 season and an MPSA Class A state championship, while McCluskey’s Bulldogs won with tough defense and a team that knew how to win games late to the tune of a 14-1 season and an MHSAA Class 3A title.

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Franklin County, which won six games by a touchdown or less, was able to win for a variety of factors, according to McCluskey.

“I think it goes back to our strength training,” McCluskey said. “Our conditioning program, which I believe is one of the best in the state, helped us win. We did 30 workouts over the summer and worked out three times a week during the season. The kids had character and they understood that they had to play 48 minutes. The Natchez game (in which Franklin County led 21-0 early before falling 41-35) helped justify that. We won a lot of close games, but so did South Panola.

“There’s an old saying that bad teams find ways to lose games and good teams find ways to win. That’s why I liked our chances coming into the playoffs. I think the combination of our weight training, the character of our players and the coaches instilling in them that the game is played for 48 minutes is what helped us win.”

King also credited his player’s determination, as well as quality preparation, with getting his team a championship.

“I had a vision eight or nine years ago when I came in that I wanted this program to be one of the most respected in the state,” he said. “State championships are so rare — there’s a lot of luck. There’s also a lot of hard work and preparation. We had a group of kids who had been in AA for two years. We were very well respected in AA. We did a good job of competing. When we dropped down, the kid’s said this is our time.

“All the groups I’ve had have been focused on winning, but this team knew it had the talent to compete for a state championship, it had tremendous leadership and we stayed away from serious injuries, which is a big part of winning a state championship.”

While few Saints missed games due to injuries, King said the team’s overall tougness could be credited more for that.

“There’s so many school you read about that have these injuries and the players don’t come back,” King said. “Kyle Ketchings had five concussions. Wells Middleton played the last three games on a broken rib. Parker Brumfield has a knee injury and puts a brace on it and plays. Clint Easom goes into the state championship not even cleared by the doctor with a broken collarbone. That is what kind of kids we have. Those are four injuries that sideline 90 percent of the kids playing the game. These kids came back because that goal they set early in July was too big for them to miss out on.”

Franklin County’s championship was the first in the school’s history, while Trinity’s was its third, and the second in King’s tenure.

That first state championship is something McCluskey feels will be a source of pride to Meadville for years to come.

“Since 1994 (when Franklin County won South State but fell in the championship game) this town has been starved for a championship,” McCluskey said. “We came so close a few times. This win helped heal some wounds. This is a great community and a great school, and this helped put Franklin County on the map. A lot of people probably didn’t know where Franklin County was. They do now.”