By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Amid an evening of basketball playoffs for the Florida Star Championship in the Madison County Central School gym, the Broncos honored basketball Coach Charlie Barfield who is retiring after 35 years.
All around the gym, poster dotted the walls. “We love you, Coach Barfield!” “Goodbye, We’ll Miss You!” There were wishes for a happy retirement and fond remembrances of the past 35 years.
Barfield, who is also the pastor of Pineland Missionary Baptist Church, had coached the Madison Middle School Wildcats and then the Madison Central School Broncos. He stood on the court with his wife, Shirley, his children and several grandchildren, as people took the mic to heap accolades on Barfield for a long and distinguished career.
“You poured your heart out for the children,” said School Superintendent Lou Miller, who had worked with Barfield for several years when she was the school principal, before becoming the superintendent.
Sam Stalnaker spoke of all the times he played his team against Barfield, and “managed to beat him only twice in 27 years…Charlie, you’re a great man,” he said. “Keep your head up, keep going forward, and love God.”
DaBra Lofton, now DaBra Lofton Glee, a guidance counselor at Madison County High School, also played for Coach Barfield during the late 80’s…as the first female middle school football player in Madison County. After 13 years of ballet, she gave up her ballet slippers for football. There were times when it was incredibly hard, when she wanted to quit, but she didn’t; she stayed with it and played every game. As she stood on the basketball court Thursday night, she thanked Barfield enthusiastically for pushing her as hard as he did.
An old friend and college classmate of Barfield’s, Tim McCray, said, “You’ve been teaching longer than Methuselah lived…and that’s a good thing. May you stay forever young.”
Along with the heartfelt speeches, there were several tokens of appreciation: a huge handmade posterboard greeting card embellished with drawings of basketballs and “WE WILL MISS YOU COACH B!” spelled out in orange glitter; a basketball signed by the entire team; a plaque presented by MCCS Principal Willie Williams on behalf of the entire school, praising Barfield for his dedication and character.
But then, the ceremony ended, and it was time for Coach Barfield to lead the Broncos out on the court for one last time.
Coach Barfield’s retirement ceremony came right in the middle of a high-energy evening, right between two basketball playoff games, one for the girls’ team and one for the boys; the Lady Broncos and the Broncos of MCCS were vying with Baker and Suwannee County, respectively, for the Florida Star Championship.
First up were the Lady Broncos, coached by Tawanna Christian and Megan Dickey, playing against the Lady Bobcats of Baker County. The Broncos quickly scored first, but the Bobcats took the lead early in the quarter. By the last two minutes of the first quarter, the Broncos trailed the Bobcats 6 to 12; in those final two minutes, the Bobcats scored two more baskets, bringing their total score to 16, and the Broncos scored in the last few seconds bringing their total to 8.
In the second quarter, the Broncos fought their way up to 16, but the Bobcats still led with 26 at the half.
The Broncos made the first basket in the third quarter, another hard-fought round that ended with a score of 27 for the Broncos and 37 for the Bobcats.
In the fourth quarter, the Broncos again scored first, making the score 29 to 37. The Bobcats made one more basket, but by the last two and a half minutes of the game, the Broncos had managed to catch up and tie the score at 39-39. A free throw by #22, Jameica Cobb, put the Broncos ahead with a score of 40-39 and had the crowd roaring.
However, the Bobcats quickly scored three more baskets. The Broncos scored one last basket in the last minute and a half, and two free throws by #10, Cindy Brown, in the last 30 seconds of the game, brought the final score to Broncos 44, Bobcats 46.
The boys’ team took to the court shortly after Coach Barfield’s retirement ceremony, but “retiring” wasn’t the word for the veteran coach once the game was underway.
The Suwannee Bullpups made the first basket within seconds, leaving the Broncos trailing 0-2, but a free throw by #23, Kenneth McQuay, put the Broncos on the board, for a score of 1-2. But the Bullpups proved tenacious with the lead, ending the quarter with a score of 12 to the Broncos’ 6.
By the end of the first half, the gap had widened, with a score of Broncos 9, Bullpups 24.
In early part of the third quarter, the Bullpups made two free throws, bringing their total to 26, and the Broncos scored one basket for a total of 11, but then they remained at 11, while the Bullpups pulled ahead even more, to 36. Then, a three-point basket by the Broncos brought their total to 14, and two more baskets in the last two minutes ended the third quarter with a score of 18-36.
The fourth quarter, and the game, ended with a score of Broncos 26, Bullpups 45.
It proved an emotional evening for most of the crowd at MCCS. There was the excitement of having made it so far, all the way to the playoffs, the disappointment of loss, the ceremonial goodbye to a well-loved coach and all the memories that it brought forth for former players, alumni, friends, family and coworkers in the stands.
Both the Broncos and the Lady Broncos teams received runner-up trophies.