Expectations were high for the Enterprise football team and head coach Kelly Jimmerson coming into 2020.
The Bulldogs went 11-2 in 2019 and made it to the third round of the MHSAA Class 2A playoffs, and they returned most of their players from a year ago. But the COVID-19 pandemic provided a unique set of challenges and even caused Enterprise to have to drop a few games off its schedule due to the team being under quarantine.
Instead of letting the expectations and added challenges crush them, the team rose to the occasion by finishing 9-2 and making it all the way to the Class 2A South State championship round. Because of that success, Jimmerson has been named the Premier Preps 2020 Football Coach of the Year.
“Obviously any time you get recognized as a coach of the year there’s a great sense of pride,” Jimmerson said. “It’s very humbling. I know there are guys out there who worked harder than I did, so I’m very appreciative. All the credit goes to my kids and assistants. I’ve been very blessed with a great group of young men and assistant coaches, and I’m glad they let me hang onto their coattails.”
The MHSAA canceled spring practices in 2020 in response to the pandemic, meaning the coaches couldn’t work their players out on campus from approximately mid March until June. It put teams behind, and it meant an experienced group like the 2020 Bulldogs were better equipped to handle any disruptions to their normal routine.
“We preach three things: effort, attitude and focus, and we always think focus is important, but obviously this year it became really important,” Jimmerson explained. “There were a lot of distractions that could pull the kids’ and coaches’ attention, and I think we all did a really good job of focusing on us and what we had to do to be the best football team we could be. The kids did an excellent job with that, and it wasn’t the ending we wanted (a state championship), but they were rewarded with a really good season.”
The senior class, in particular, exemplified how much experience paid off.
“A lot of them started as freshmen, and just about every one of them started as sophomores, and those years we went a combined 5-20,” Jimmerson said. “From their junior to senior years we’re now 20-4, so that says a lot about how this group didn’t fall apart. They stuck together and believed in what was going on. Obviously, age plays a big part in success, and they kept working, and I’m extremely proud of them.”
It also helps when the entire Enterprise community wants the high school’s football team to be successful, Jimmerson added.
“It starts when these kids are young,” Jimmerson said. “We have a community that really buys into football. That’s what the town is rooted in. You can go back to the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, and there’s been a tradition here. The parents put into these young kids’ minds the importance of the how they play and how they represent the community every Friday. I’ve been fortunate in having the backing of the community to stay here and get through some bad years and some good years, and that’s very important to what we do. Our administration is obviously very important, and we have really good support here and overall a good network.”
It’s not just football for which the community wants to be known, either.
“Academic-wise our school was No. 1 in the state a couple of years ago,” Jimmerson said. “We try to bleed that over into athletics. There’s an expectation to be the very best you can be, whether it’s in football, baseball, algebra or biology. There are good people who work here that find it very important to pass that knowledge and expectations off to the kids. We only have them for a short period of time — four years is not very long — so we want to pass them onto them that will last.”