Darrell Sutherland has been the head coach of Bartram Trail High School since it opened in St. Johns County back in 2000. Over that time, he has been one of the most successful coaches in northeast Florida, including a run last year that took Bartram all the way to the 7A state title game in Orlando.
1010XL caught up with Sutherland to reflect on last season, talk about this upcoming season and get the latest on both Riley Smith and Joey Gatewood – two crucial pieces to the Bears run last year who are now preparing for their first-year of college football.
“We’ve got a really good group,” Sutherland told “Hacker After Dark” on 1010XL. “One of the things that I think is going to be beneficial is a number of them were guys that got significant playing time last year. They got to be part of that playoff run and they got to see what it takes. They got to be around that special group of seniors and I think that’s something that is going to be beneficial for us.”
As for that run last year to the state title game, has Sutherland had time to reflect on it this offseason?
“Not really because we came right in that following Monday, got right in the wright room and got the next group of guys going,” he said. “But one of the things we talked about as a staff is we wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss any moments.
“As we advanced last year we thanked God for giving us one more week with these young men and we wanted to cherish every week knowing it was special. Knowing we got those extra five weeks with that group was just amazing.
“Moving onto this next group of young men, we have tried to take that same kind of mentality. We just really want to enjoy every moment that we have with these guys. Doing workouts, doing camps and doing seven-on-seven tournaments. We don’t want to get so busy looking on to the next thing that we don’t enjoy the moment that we have right now.”
Riley Smith helped lead the Bears to a state runner-up spot in 2017 and has since signed and enrolled at Boise State.
“The thing that is going to stick with me about Riley is what a great young man he was to everybody that he came in contact with. He made everybody feel important and special and that trait in him I hope is something that rubbed off on the next group of guys.”
As for how Smith is doing thus far out in Boise.
“He’s really doing well,” Sutherland said. “One of the things that is so neat with technology now, is even though he didn’t enroll early, Boise was constantly giving him their installs and video. It was almost like he was there.”
Like Smith, Joey Gatewood had a huge impact on the Bears success the past few seasons.
Gatewood was one of the most highly-rated prospects Northeast Florida has seen and has since enrolled at Auburn University and gone through his first spring as a college football player.
“He’s doing really well,” Sutherland said. “One of the things that is so neat is our guys do a great job of coming back and he was on spring break and he came back and worked out with us and talked with the guys.
“The thing that is going to stick out to me about Joey, is just how much fun he had playing football. He was a great practice player. As physically talented as he was, he was just a big kid that loved playing football.”
Coaching nearly two decades at Bartram Trail, Sutherland has seen a lot in regards to high school football in the area.
He says the talent in Northeast Florida is as good as you will find anywhere in the state.
“I think the talent here is incredible. One of the things we try to do is play the toughest teams in the state,” he said. “Out of our district schedule, we want to play the toughest competition we can and it’s remarkable how many of those are not very far drives.
“We can play great talent that’s here and local and it on a continual up rise. The talent is getting better and the expectations are getting higher each year.
“The bar keeps getting raised and I think the young men in the area keep rising up to it.”
(You can follow Ryan Green on Twitter @RyanGreenGN)