By Pat Turner
Brandeis went through the offseason with a different outlook.
Although the Broncos turned in another winning season, their 7-3 record wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs. After going 3-1 in Zone A, Brandeis lost a 58-57 overtime decision to Jay in a battle for a post-season spot.
For a program which has developed a reputation as one of the Greater San Antonio Area’s finest the past several years, missing out on the post-season was a humbling experience.
However, second-year coach David Branscom saw a new fire emerge in his players in the offseason as they used that time to right the previous wrongs.
As the 2018 football season unfolds, the Broncos are looking to take several steps forward in the battle for one of District 28-6A’s four playoff spots.
A new challenge awaits Brandeis and its nine 28-6A opponents. The zone format used the past four years is no longer. Instead, there’s a nine-game league schedule, meaning teams have a scrimmage and one non-district game before leaping into the fire.
“That was my first year as a coach not to make the playoffs,” said Branscom, who spent the previous two seasons as Brandeis’ defensive coordinator under Jeff Fleener following 15 years as an assistant at NCAA Division III power Mary Hardin-Baylor. “That happened to be my first as a head coach as well. I don’t think there’s any question it made our kids hungrier after the shock of it.
“We had a lot of time to process it. We focused on making it better. We never focused on excuses. We focused on perfecting the result and controlling the result as much as we can. We talked about expectations and what it takes to get them.”
Branscom saw that first year as a learning experience.
Even though Branscom had a wealth of football knowledge, being the one calling all the shots was still a different game.
“It was phenomenal,” Branscom said. “There’s a lot more to this job than football. Being a campus coordinator, we were going to be 100 percent involved and pushing the best results. As a coordinator, you have a great opportunity to affect a program in a positive manner, a program that is already on solid ground. That for me has been the neatest part. I have a great coaching staff.
“There’s been very teachable moments. I have a tremendous principal (Dr. Geri Berger) who has worked with me. There’s been a lot of growth in all regards.”
The Broncos, who open their season in a non-district encounter against Johnson, have the talent to achieve their goal.
Defensively, the Broncos are counting on solid play from linebacker Brent Malone, who has committed to Harvard, linemen Oscar Cardenas and Alex Trevino, and safeties Frank Wilson IV and Kaine Buchanan.
On the offensive side, lineman Josh Tapia-Fisher is a plus to the front. J Nova Rangel, who could also work at cornerback, is expected to spark the running attack. Help is also available from tight end Kris Bowen and receiver Brandon Pake.
Quarterback also looks promising with Jordan Battles and Brett Marthis showing signs of leading the offense.
“We have some talented kids that are hungry to compete and play together,” Branscom said. “They can be difference makers. We’re going to rely on some young kids. We have to put them in a position to win. If we can do that, they’re going to flourish. It’s an exciting time to get out there and show what we can do. It’s going to be fun.”
Branscom did much of his grooming for his current role at Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Jacksboro product even helped usher in the program in 1998. When his playing days were over, he worked as a grad assistant before becoming an assistant.
Through the years, Branscom helped Mary Hardin-Baylor become an NCAA Division III power, while working under head coach Pete Fredenburg and the late Corky Nelson, a San Antonio native who along with serving as defensive coordinator for the Cru was an assistant at Baylor and head coach at North Texas. In the high school ranks, Nelson had a stint at Seguin and guided Tyler John Tyler to the 1973 Class 4A title with a team that featured futured Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell.
“They were the ones who raised me,” said Branscom, who played at Cisco College before transferring to Mary Hardin-Baylor. “Coach Fredenburg did a great job at building the program. He was great at motivating. Coach Nelson had an ability to push expectations on the field. But he also built that love and trust off the field to reach those expectations.
“I learned so much there about being great at what you do. It is difficult to step past that line and commit to something. If you’re going to grow some of the best results are going to come through conflict. It was fourth-and-one every day where I worked for 15 years. It was a great place to learn they dynamics of molding men.”
Now, Branscom is putting that knowledge to use at the high school level.
“My time at Mary Hardin-Baylor was a great experience,” Branscom said. “But I changed my goals. I wanted to be a high school head coach. This is a great opportunity.