Bayside High’s Jerrod Ackley hasn’t yet reached a year as head football coach at the school, but after going through 10 regular-season games, he has a picture of where the Bears’ program is and where it can go.
“There obviously is talent here,” he said during a break in Monday’s practice. “Our principal is awesome, which is one great thing, and we’ve had a booster club that is really working hard.”
Where Bayside football is going this week is to Naples for a Class 6A regional quarterfinal game. It will be familiar turf for Ackley, whose last two coaching jobs were with rivals of Naples: Immokalee and Lely.
The Bears, who enter the postseason with a 7-3 record, are one of 10 high school playoff teams in Brevard County. Nine of those will play Friday.
The winner of Bayside’s game will advance to face wither Estero or Heritage, unbeaten and ranked third in 6A.
Having earned the District 14 runner-up spot means more than just Friday’s road trip. This week’s practices will be important for continued improvement, meaning the effort and focus of the players should be the kind that helps in a sport where repetition is key.
“Being a playoff team helps in numerous ways,” Ackley said. “There’s kind of a multiplying effect, because you get more out of practice, but you also get more practices.”
Ackley has seen progress as well as slight stumbles this season as he has worked to mold Bayside’s football program. The Bears started 5-0 for the first time and have returned to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
The second half of the season has not been as generous in the win-loss column for Bayside, which has lost three of its past five. The past two games resulted in losses to a pair of south Brevard rivals, but they’ve also pinpointed areas needing improvement. The coach mentioned tackling, in addition to a couple of other areas.
“I think both against Heritage and Palm Bay, our Achilles heel was turnovers and special teams,” he said. “We had done well in both those areas until then.”
There was promise in the run game against the Pirates, and he has liked what he has seen defensively “when we play with intensity and rally to the football.”
As for the overall picture, Ackley has watched his players move forward in what are three key areas for him: discipline, accountability and work ethic.
“I think, overall, what I’m most proud of is our players understand how important discipline is and how important our work ethic is,” he said, recalling a recent inquiry from some Bears. “They were asking why we didn’t run more. They’re starting to hold each other accountable.”
The Bears have at least the rest of this week to continue improving themselves.
Playoffs: ’06, ’08, ’09, ’10
Playoff record: 4-4
at Rockledge W, 21-14
at Sebastian River W, 39-21
South Fork W, 26-5
at Ft. Pierce Westwood W, 49-7
Jensen Beach W, 21-14
Melbourne L, 28-7
Port St. Lucie W, 41-14
at Okeechobee W, 37-0
at Heritage L, 41-28
Palm Bay L, 53-15
Road to the 6A Championship
District 14 runner-up
* Regional quarterfinal game Friday at District 13 champion Naples (8-2)
* Regional semifinal game against Estero (5-5) or No. 3 Heritage (10-0)