Bronson, Chiefland football coaches resign

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By Lou Elliott Jones

Chiefland and Bronson high schools, whose football teams and the coaches have faced challenging years, are looking for new coaches.
CHS Principal Bill Tovine confirmed on Dec. 16 that football coach Jim O’Neal has resigned as coach but will be staying on in a teaching position.  The position will be posted, Tovine said.
Bronson High coach Al Cooksey made the announcement of his departure at the Football Banquet on Dec. 15.
“Coach O’Neal resigned because he’s had a rough year and he’s wanting to spend time with his wife and spend time on his educational leadership and teaching,” Tovine said.
The CHS team only won one game in the past two years since O’Neal returned as coach. He tried to bring the values and style of play that helped the fighting Indians win the state championship in 1997 when he last coached at the school.
But at the same time O’Neal was preparing his players for battle on the field, he had a different fight at home. His wife was battling cancer and his father, who died recently, was also ill.
“He’s had one of the roughest years I have ever known,” Tovine said. “His wife and his father,  then trying to balance that with the football team.
“It’s been difficult and he’s handled everything with nothing but class and character. When I think of one of the Top 5 men of class and character and I will think of him.”
It was much the same story for Cooksey in the past two years as he lost his wife, then his mother-in-law, then a sister-in-law to illness and his team won only one game in 2011.
He spoke of his team’s challenge reflecting on the Oct. 14 game with Branford High School.
“We walked on the field. Then the Branford players came out and they were big,” Cooksey said. “And our guys eyes got big as headlights.”
A third of Cooksey’s 24 players was comprised of freshmen at the start of the season. Three were starters.
The Eagles coach said he needed his team to grow up and to grow up quickly.
By the end of the season he had 21 players and practically every one of them had sustained some sort of injury playing the larger teams.
No one has been named as his replacement.