Mustangs looking to rebound on the road

File / The Herald

Stanhope Elmore coach Brian Bradford has the Mustangs off to their best start since 2013.

Brian Bradford saw plenty of success at Stanhope Elmore during his days as a Mustang. Before graduating, Bradford saw the Mustangs win a region title then he returned as an assistant coach from 2005-13, helping the team to six playoff appearances.

Bradford returned to take charge at Stanhope after the program went six years without a postseason victory but he knew the expectations were still there. In 2019, the Mustangs returned to that standard, winning their first playoff game since 2010 while grabbing the most wins since Bradford left the offensive coordinator role.

“I cannot talk enough about how special this group was,” Bradford said. “I have said it all year: These guys bought in and it made a difference. They worked at it and always had the right attitude about everything.”

Stanhope had higher hopes for the season, including a region title and a deeper playoff run. The Mustangs were in position to win a region title entering the final game of region play for the second straight season but a loss to Opelika kept the 15-year drought alive. 

Despite not finishing on top of the standings, the Mustangs still made easy work of their other region opponents, outscoring them 106-42. That included a victory over Wetumpka as Stanhope earned consecutive wins against its county rival for the first time since 2005.

“He and his staff should be complimented on everything they have done,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “They have done an outstanding job of growing the level of play and the level of confidence over there. That’s all in the direction of his guidance. The program is there because of his leadership.”

Bradford has brought the Mustangs success without making too many changes to the style of play. Defense and a strong rushing offense have been staples in the program for decades. Stanhope often turned to Tray Duncan and Andrew Rines in the backfield, rarely needing to throw the ball to run away with games.

The defense was loaded with talent but the coaching staff had to get them in the right position and it did just that. Bradford gave plenty of credit to defensive coordinator Hunter Adams as the Mustangs allowed 16.8 points per game, their lowest average since 2010.

Adams was a head coach at Holtville before becoming the Mustangs DC when Bradford took over at Stanhope Elmore. He said it has been an honor to work and see the program’s resurgence under Bradford’s leadership.

“The biggest thing about Brian is he does it the right way,” Adams said. “That’s the only reason I was willing to step back and be an assistant coach again because it’s coaching under somebody that I trust. It’s more than just the success on the football field but it’s about the way he operates the program. He’s changed the culture of our school entirely.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.