In the midst of Ferguson’s darkest moments, the one place that featured harmony instead chaos, was McCluer South-Berkeley’s football field.

“It kept us from being distracted all the time. It kept us from staying out of the streets. It kept us aiming for a goal. Something to strive for.”

Football provided hope in a community stricken with grief.

It brought structure and discipline to a group of young men, when their lives needed it most.

“There’s nothing on this football field that’s going to rattle them. That’s going to shake them. They’re like coach, we’ve been through a riot. We didn’t have school. We didn’t know if we were going to have a season. So now, it’s like ok let’s work on X’s and O’s. Let’s make sure we understand what we should be doing and they’re amazing for that reason.”

Back on August 9th 2014 the city of Ferguson would never be the same.

The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, altered the lives of its residents forever.

Emotions ran high.

Protests took center stage.

Somehow in the middle of it all, McCluer South-Berkeley’s football team found a way to prepare for its upcoming season.

“Only through adversity do you understand what kind of person you are.”

Facing that adversity head on, has brought the Bulldogs to their current success today. They’re undefeated for the first time in the program’s history.

“Faith and hard work is everything to this football team. Without faith and hard work, we would be somewhere robbing somebody or something.”

Because when the helmet goes on, they’re playing for more than the Bulldog on the side of it.

“We all trust each other, there’s no weak points in our defense, we all trust each other to make the tackle and interception. We all bond as one, so we play as one.”

Football at McCluer South Berkeley is a family. And Howard Brown is more like a father than a head coach.

“He shows us that he cares about the team. Not just the team in particular, every player, each individual on the team he shows us that he cares about us. Without him many of us wouldn’t be in school. Without him we probably wouldn’t have a home to eat at right now. He helped us through a lot of stuff. Especially me. He helped me through a lot of stuff my freshman year and my sophomore year. I was struggling, and he was one of the only people in my life to actually help me.”

Everyone on the coaching staff is from North County, including head coach Howard Brown, who’s dream was always to return home and coach Berkeley.

The reason? He felt like it was important for him to come back and make a difference.

He certainly is, and he hopes his players do the same one day.