Head Coach Earnest Perkins helped Avon Park High defeat Hardee High for the first time in nine years
His Avon Park Red Devils had lost their first two games of the 2007 season by a combined score of 89-0. The next opponent was Hardee High, the defending Class 3A-District 12 champions and a team Avon Park hadn't beaten in nine years. And yet, somehow, Red Devils Head Coach Earnest Perkins made his team believe they could win.
And win they did.
In what looks on paper like an Appalachian State-sized upset, Avon Park defeated the Hardee Wildcats 10-7 on Friday, September 21. They did so by absorbing the main message Perkins has been trying to teach since taking over at Avon Park in 2006.
"As their football coach, I've always said to them, focus and finish," said Perkins. "And Friday night that's exactly what they did. They were focused and they finished."
As a result, Perkins has been named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers third High School Coach of the Week for the 2007 season. Accompanied by two assistant coaches and a pair of student-athletes, Perkins visited Buccaneers headquarters on Thursday to meet Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Gruden and receive his award.
"It floored me," said Perkins of the honor. "It really floored me. I'm very appreciative to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for honoring me and my team. It's great."
A teacher for 31 years, Perkins has coached high school football for 30 seasons, including 26 as a head coach. In just his second season at the Red Devils' helm, he wasn't completely aware of the depth of the Avon Park-Hardee rivalry until after the upset. When he saw the reaction, he was thrilled for his young players.
"The kids, you know, the [previous] two weeks, we'd been going through it," said Perkins. "[The win] was like vindication, jubilation. It's all about the kids."
The Buccaneers will honor ten high school coaches from Central and West Central Florida during this year's prep football season. A Coach of the Year will be selected from the ten weekly winners at the end of the season and will receive an additional $1,000 for his football program. The Buccaneers and National Football League's Coach of the Week program aids in the development of youth football, which has a positive influence on young athletes and the communities in which they live.