BRANSON, Colo. — The community in Branson is all about family, and this family is coming together to save Bearcat football.
Branson, Colorado is just a small, quaint town. Just about a mile or so north of the New Mexico border. What used to be a stop on the Old Santa Fe Trail. The town is rooted in generations of cattle ranchers, who have called this land home.
“Six generations, four generations of us have been coming to this school,” Junior Brody Doherty said.
“I think I am a fourth generation cattle rancher,” added Issac Provost.
Like ranching, football has become part of the identity of this small town.
“The community has supported football like I did not know they would. This has always been a basketball community. But we have turned them into football fans,” Branson Superintendent Brad Caldwell said.
“Our cattle ranching business started a lot of generations before us and we are keeping this going. Hopefully, can keep it going for many more generations,” Freshman Owen Doherty said with pride.
“There is a ruggedness of football that speaks to the boys. And it really draws the community out,” Athletic Director Brad Doherty explained.
The Bearcat football program is just five seasons old, but their field looks like it has been there forever, just like their cattle ranches.
“It’s held up for five years. We have played on it for five years. But unfortunately, we just don’t have the resources to keep it alive,” Junior Brody said. “We have lost ground every year. Slowly, no matter what we have tried.”
To play on the rough field has become a Bearcat badge of honor.
“Being tackled on this is different than anything you have ever felt. I’ve got scars up and down my arms from the lack of grass, and sticks, just getting pounded into the ground over and over,” Junior Brody said.
Due to the lack of resources to keep the field in safe, playing condition, Athletic Director Doherty was given an ultimatum by opposing teams, fix the field or lose your home games. Doherty said that decision was not immediately met with a positive attitude.
“First thing, we heard them, but we did not agree with them, at first,” Athletic Director Doherty said. “We have played on this tough field since day one.”
“I was a little worried. When I heard we may not be able to have any more home games, and home games are nice and what this community gathers around,” Freshman Owen said.
“We would have to find neutral site games at other high schools. And we would not have a home atmosphere at all. People could still travel, but we would not have a home to defend. And we would not have much to fight for,” Junior Brody added.
This community has always been resilient. Just like their daily grind on the ranch, the community began working on a plan to save the football field. Getting community leaders and alumni involved for a plan of action.
As of January, the claw fundraising project launched with the goal of building an artificial turf field for the school, a shaded community area, along with a walking trail. All with the intention of bettering the community, and giving a gift to the future generations of Branson.
Superintendent Caldwell reiterated, “We were a close knit student body before, but with the football players and the cheerleaders, and the fans, and even the people that run the concessions, all of that. I would hate to see all of that go away. And that is where we would be if we do not get a field.”
“I think because we have had a resilient past, and we have seen some very thin, difficult times. Now, we have something really positive to get behind, and we know, hey if we have made it through the lean years, we are going to make this happen,” Athletic Director Doherty said.
The claw project raised $11,000 in the first five days thanks to the generosity of 21 football families. As of Thursday, the total stands at $209,500, but they are still $240,000 short of their goal.
“In Branson, we have to, we have to have everyone involved,” Superintendent Caldwell added with admiration for this small town.
“To hear that we could have our own turf field here, in the middle of no where Branson, was amazing,” Provost said beaming.
An amazing gift, this Branson family can leave behind for future generations to come.
“Being a close knit ranching community, we are always helping each other. Between work, ranching, school, we are all friends any way. So, it would mean a lot to the community,” said Provost.
“It’s great seeing people put all this work forward and be a part of this project. I mean, I only have one year to play on this, but leaving this behind for them is a big thing because I can only do so much. And this is kind of one thing I want to give them,” Junior Brody added.
HOW TO DONATE:
While the Branson football is getting closer to their goal every day, but if construction is to begin by April they need help. If you or anyone you know would like to keep six-man football alive for the Bearcats, you can click this link to donate.