Fort Meade High's Michael Hayde accepts his Coach of the Year Award from Jon Gruden
As the game clock ticked down to zeroes, the Fort Meade Miners knew they were one step closer to reaching the Class 1A State Finals. The Miners' last home game of the season was about much more than advancing in the state playoffs, however.
After their town was hit by three hurricanes this summer, Fort Meade residents were faced with the daunting task of rebuilding a ravaged community. Buildings were destroyed and families were left homeless.
Fort Meade High's football season was barely underway when the natural disasters struck, and what happened next seemed more like a movie script than reality.
Despite missing a dozen practices and dealing with countless other challenges presented by the hurricanes, the Miners rallied around both Head Coach Michael Hayde and their community to go 12-2 and win the Class 1A State Title by beating previously undefeated Blountstown last week in Gainesville.
In recognition of his efforts in helping the Miners rally against such difficult circumstances, Coach Hayde was named the 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers High School Coach of the Year on Wednesday. Along with members of his football team and coaching staff, Hayde toured the Buccaneers practice facility and watched morning practice before receiving his award from Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Gruden.
"I think this award is extremely special for our entire football program – players, coaches, the Fort Meade community and our football family," said Hayde. "We've put in an awful lot of work. We've played with poise and confidence. We've kept fighting to achieve our goals. Everybody in our community should be proud. For me to get an award on a personal level from Coach Gruden, the best coach in football, just means a great deal to me."
The Fort Meade football community is no stranger to success. Under Coach Hayde, the Miners have reached the playoffs and won district championships eight years in a row. In addition, they have won regional titles and advanced to the State Semifinals every year since 1999, advancing to the State Finals in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004. This year, though, marked the first time that the Miners have won a football championship.
Miners football was especially valuable to Ft. Meade this year. It served as a respite and means for supporting one another in a community that was so stricken by hardship.
"We're a tight-knit family," said Hayde. "We all pulled together and supported each other during some very tough times. We didn't practice a whole lot, but once we were able to get on the field again we got back to business. We kind of used the football season as a way to pull our community together on Friday nights and to have something to feel good about. The community really wanted us to win this year, and we were blessed enough to win the State Title."
Coach Hayde received a framed "Coach of the Year" certificate signed by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Buccaneer General Manager Bruce Allen and Gruden. He also received a football autographed by Gruden, a "Coach of the Year" hat and a $2,000 donation to the Ft. Meade football program.