It took less than a year to restore the pride within the football program at Edgewater High School, where one of the state’s biggest turnarounds has taken place this season.
Much of the credit goes to first-year head coach Cameron Duke, who leads the district champion Eagles into a Class 7A region semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m. against visiting Orange Park Fleming Island.
Both teams are 9-2.
For Edgewater, that’s a far cry from the 0-10 season and revolving door of coaches from a year ago.
“We knew we were better than we played last year,” said Edgewater senior playmaker Quondarrius Whitfield. “We saw the potential that we had and we believed in what coach Duke was telling us when he first came.”
The renewed vigor surrounding the program was perhaps most evident in the show of support the Eagles received in their home playoff opener last week, which ended in a 31-21 win over Gainesville Buchholz.
“The environment has changed,” Whitfield said. “We had way more people out there, way more alumni and family and friends.”
They’ll likely return this week, and for many more years to come should the bond continue to grow tighter under Duke’s watch.
“Before anything, before we even got into pads, he wanted us to work together,” Whitfield said. “We’ve bonded better. Now we’re all close. We’re not a team, we’re a family now.”
Whitfield sensed that taking shape late in the summer when the team participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp at Stetson University in DeLand.
“We stopped playing selfish and we started playing for one another, and started playing as a team,” he said. “At that FCA camp, I knew we were going to have a good season after that.”