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December 27, 2013

THE TIMES’ TOP 10 SPORTS STORIES OF THE YEAR (No. 5): Britton leaps Woodard as Cullman’s winningest football coach

Mark Britton has seen more than his fair share of wacky plays, wild finishes and exhilarating games during the 13 seasons he’s spent patrolling the sideline as Cullman’s head football coach.

Nothing, however, could have prepared him for the craziness he endured during his most recent campaign with the team.

In fact, had Britton known four of the Bearcats’ eight total victories would have been decided by eight points or less — three of them within the final minute of the game — he might have paid a visit to his family doctor for a extra dose of blood pressure medicine just to be on the safe side.

While the Black and Gold’s close encounters with Walker (13-10), Hartselle (14-6), Athens (16-13) and Moody (20-14) may have done little for Britton’s collection of gray hair, the grizzled head man certainly wasn’t complaining about his squad’s feisty nature or its sheer will to win no matter the stacked odds.

Despite all the madness associated with Cullman’s games, the 2013 season was a lot like many others in Britton’s tenure with the program. The Bearcats won at least seven games and made the playoffs for the 12th time with the longtime coach — 2004 notwithstanding — also picking up an eighth straight first-round playoff victory and 16th overall with the coach.

The main difference in this season — it was a big one — and seasons’ past was Britton passing Oliver Woodard as the Bearcats’ all-time winningest coach with 107 total victories.

It came during the Black and Gold’s second game of the year, a 45-27 area victory over East Limestone which saw plenty of smiles, handshakes and hugs to go around following the record-setting performance from Britton and Co.

“It hasn’t really soaked in to be honest with you,” Britton told The Times immediately following the emotional win. “I was running these sidelines when my brothers were playing — Coach Woodard was coaching — as a ballboy. I’ve spent a lot of time on this field. It’s truly an honor.”

Britton went on to add six victories to his total with the Bearcats — 113 (130 over his illustrious career) — and has shown nothing but humility throughout the entire process.

“In my mind, Coach Woodard will always be the guy,” he continued. “He will always be the guy. As a young coach, and just watching him as a young player — I never had the honor to play for him; he had already retired, but he was still teaching when I came through as a student. He would come by practice and share things with us when I was brand new here at Cullman. We just want to do a good job and put a good program in this stadium. I hope he would be proud of what our kids have accomplished in the last few years.”

% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at jwinfrey@cullmantimes.com.

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