Did that really happen?

By almost every account, Derby football’s game this past Friday should have been a tight game. The message was echoed through the crowd and the coaches and after seeing its season end at Panther Stadium last year, it was only natural to think Manhattan would be inspired to rebound from its sub-state loss in 2018.

Or maybe not…

A rabid Derby roster trounced Manhattan’s hopes from the start, winning its 24th-straight game and clinching a spot in its fifth-consecutive sub-state game.

What’s the recipe behind this success? I’m in my third full year covering the school and its athletic programs and I still can’t help but shake my head when I watch this football team play.

What I think is most important for the community and fans to value, however, is not just what happens in the confines of Panther Stadium.

We’ve told numerous stories of the One Degree Compass initiative that head coach Brandon Clark and character coach Kevin Chase have put together over the past 12-24 months. Clark has been quick to state how the program’s success correlates with its vision off the field and it’s hard to argue against that.

I’m impressed with this program’s ability to make off-the-field work a priority. Whether it is its dedicated approach to training or the work done for its classmates, community or teammates throughout the year, the program has found a winning formula.

The trust between these players is something to behold. I can’t go more than one player interview without these young men addressing their appreciation for their teammates. Whether it be any of the 22 starters or any other athlete on its roster of nearly 150 players, this team has created an inseparable bond.

All of that being said, this culture doesn’t only exist on the football sideline. It’s something coaches across Derby High School have done a fantastic job of prioritizing and can be connected to its success in all athletics.

As a community, the work done by these athletes and support staff should be commended because it’s going to play a large part in preparing this generation for life after Derby High School.

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