By: Wells Dusenbury
Two years ago, things looked bleak for the Inlet Grove football program. The Hurricanes were coming off an 0-10 season and had trouble competing in Jimmie Bell's first year as head coach. The team lost all but one game by double digits,
Despite that, Bell never lost faith in the program.
"It's like a boxing match," said Bell of the growing pains they experienced. "We try to teach them it's going to continue on. It's a 12-round bout and and we've got to keep on fighting."
Inlet Grove avoided the early-round knockout so to speak and have turned things around to the point that they're hosting a Regional Quarterfinal playoff game on Friday night.
After their winless season in 2010, the Hurricanes rebounded in Bell's second year at the helm with a 4-6 record and an appearance in the 4A Regional Quarterfinals.
This year the Riviera Beach school built on that success, finishing 5-4 and winning the 7-4A District Title.
"We spoke all year of making history and we did that winning a district championship for the first time and hosting a playoff game," Bell said. "The atmosphere here has been great and the kids have really bought in to what we're trying to do. It's been a great year here."
Bell, who spent five years as the head coach at Suncoast, leads a unique team as Inlet Grove is a public charter school and attracts students from all across Palm Beach County. As a result, it's been a challenge for his team to gel together as so many of his athletes have never played together.
With the early struggles, the Hurricanes have flown under the radar in Palm Beach County (not helping matters is the fact they're the only area team in Class 4A), which has made the evolution and rise of his team that much better.
"When you see a program that isn't really on the map and people don't know about us, then all of the sudden you come out of nowhere. That's exhilarating for us."
Now, it's all about building on the newfound success. Last year, the Hurricanes got smoked in the first round of the playoffs in a 55-8 loss to Booker T. Washington. While most teams would struggle with the Miami powerhouse, Bell believes his players weren't yet ready for the moment.
"Last year, I think we were excited about the playoffs, looking around wide-eyed like a tourist. This year we think we belong here."
Fortunately, the Hurricanes avoid Booker T. Washington in the first round and instead square off against Gulliver Prep.
"We believe we can compete. We've just got to come out and compete as a unit on Friday night."
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