But for now, his indoor pro team’s 64-34 defeat to host San Angelo last Saturday in the Lone Star Football League title game has left a gash on his psyche.
“I just can’t be proud of our season right now, because the loss still stings,” the usually gregarious Bramante said this week at the team’s Hotel Cascada home base after conducting player exit interviews. “You pour everything you do into it – all your emotions, all year heart and soul and energy. The goal was to get into that game and win a championship.
“So, the bottom line now is you look for moral victories. But that never satisfies. We were right there. We were more than capable of winning.”
Sometime next week, Bramante will head back to his native Oklahoma and reflect on 7-6 season that saw him sign with the team in August after the abrupt departure of Chris Williams, who coached the Stars’ first two seasons, going a combined 8-19.
“I think the future is extremely bright,” Bramante said.
Among the top performers for the Stars was Roosevelt Falls, a Louisiana Tech alum named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Falls primarily played linebacker, and also fullback near the goal line.
“I think Roosevelt was the MVP of the whole league,”Bramante said. “It’s a no-brainer. He’s better than this league.”
Bramante said he’s hoping to have a handful of players from this year’s team back for next year, including Manzano/Eastern New Mexico alum Jayson Serda and veteran fullback Landrick Brody, an ex-Lobo.
“Ideally, you’d love to have them all move on (to a higher league),” Bramante said. “But I think when it’s all said and done, we’ll have about eight back. You want to have a little experience in your system.”
But as with most minor league sports, and especially indoor football, the future usually is filled with uncertainly.
Will the LSFL even survive into the 2015 season? Last summer, Commissioner Darlene Jones said she hoped to have at least seven teams for the 2014 season, but came up two short. Then, just before this season’s playoffs, regular-season winner Rio Grande Valley was given the heave-ho for not meeting league obligations – among them was failure to pay workmen’s comp fees.
But at least from a team ownership perspective, the Stars appear set with Michael McKernan. He is the lead investor of an all-local group and is the son of Pat McKernan, general manager of the Albuquerque Dukes from 1979-2000.
“We have a solid fan base that’s very supportive and that loves the team,” McKernan said. “They deserve the kind of product we put on the field this year.”
The Stars went 4-2 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, including dramatic wins over powerhouse San Angelo and Rio Grande squads.
And even though Bramante will be out of state much of the offseason, he said he’ll be available to help McKernan in a flash.
“Whether he needs me for appointments, shaking hands, meeting people – I’ll be there,” Bramante said. “We have some great community plans.”
LEAGUE MEETINGS: Jones said the league’s summer meeting will be at Hotel Cascada on Aug. 29-30.
“The ownership group voted on it and decided it would be a good place for us,” Jones said of Albuquerque, the only non-Texas franchise in the league.
Among items on the docket are reviewing league bylaws and expansion.
“The main thing every year we go through the operations manual, note what worked well last year and what we need to tweak,” she said.
Jones again hopes to have at least seven teams in the mix next year.
“But you never know,” she said. “I’m in negotiations with a couple of teams.”