By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Mark Britton has 99 problems, but a win ain’t one.
Actually, that’s the precise number of victories the coach has in his 11 — and a half — seasons with the Cullman football program heading into Friday’s Class 5, Region 8 battle against Russellville. While a win would allow Britton to reach the century mark, milestones are the last thing on this coach’s mind.
“It’s something I’m probably going to appreciate more down the road,” he said. “Right now, that’s not a driving force for us. We’re more focused on the playoffs and things like that.”
Reaching triple-digits might not be the “driving force” for Britton and his 12-man coaching staff, but it’s certainly serving as a motivator for the Bearcat players.
Wide receiver Troy Forrest said “it’d be big.” Another senior, Josh Reed, agreed.
“He just puts a lot of time in for us,” the defensive back said. “They all do. I think it’s important that we give something back to our coaches and get this win.”
But Britton and his staff go to great lengths to ensure they aren’t the only ones working hard. He said the players come in Sunday afternoon to watch film and endure the “Monday-Friday grind,” only then getting to spend Saturday as their one day away from football.
“We’ve just got super kids that are willing to make that sacrifice,” Britton said. “They’re doing it for their team, their teammates and their school. I want it so much for them to be successful because I know how much they put into it.”
There’s nothing better for the coach than seeing that hard work pay off in the final score. Just talking about it left Britton with a child-like grin that he couldn’t quite shake.
“The joy for us is the smiles on Friday nights after a win,” he said. “All the guys being excited about a victory, both the coaching staff and the kids, that’s your victory right there. That’s your reward, too.”
From top to bottom, Cullman has a system — think in terms of Alabama coach Nick Saban’s “process” — that allows its athletic programs to be successful. According to Britton, it starts with the school’s administrators and trickles down to the coach and his staff before it reaches the players.
This “system” isn’t entirely easy to explain with words, but it is in results, which Britton has plenty of. The Bearcats have reached at least the second round of the playoffs in nine of his 11 seasons atop the program, including their current six-year streak.
“Our administration has been super, super helpful for us,” Britton said. “We’ve got great support here as coaches in all our programs. I think having the total package, it all kind of accumulates down and shows in wins on Friday nights.
“I don’t think we always have the best athletes out there, but I do think that our coaching staff has the ability to get these guys to play as a team. We’ve been successful with that formula. We’re just blessed to have this system working for us because it’s a formula that I think sets up success for the athletes we have.
A lot of that success can be attributed to Britton, but the head coach is quick to deflect the praise to everyone else.
Instead, he’d rather talk about how much his staff — Kenny Gleaton, Ty Campbell, Jeremy Peek, Justin Woljevach, Aaron Sparks, Matt Hopper, Jonathan Romine, Brandon Dingler, Patrick Britton, Jake Johnson, Bill Griffin and John Drake — means to him. He could also go on for days about how he’d be nowhere without the players.
“I know a lot of times the head coach will get credit for things,” Britton said. “But at 99 out of 100 programs, you’re going to see that a head coach would not be where he’s at without a great staff and great kids. I’m just blessed to have both of those. I’ve been very fortunate to be in the spot I’m at. I’ve enjoyed having a program that’s going in the direction we’re going.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.