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High school football media day kicks off 2021 season

On Monday, Eastside High School hosted the 2021 North Central Florida Football Media Day.

The event is the unofficial kickoff to the upcoming high school football season.

“It’s always an exciting time to have other teams visit the school,” said Eastside Athletics Director Philip Crutchfield, who hosted a dozen media outlets and vendors. “It’s great for Eastside to have this kind of publicity, but we do it for the kids. It doesn’t matter if they’re our kids or other people’s kids. We want the kids to be showcased.”

Alachua County was well represented with Gainesville, Buchholz, host Eastside, Hawthorne, P.K. Yonge, Oak Hall School, St. Francis Catholic Academy, Santa Fe and Newberry in attendance.

“We always want to give a first-class experience to the media who work so hard,” Crutchfield said. “You guys take care of us at Eastside, and we like to give back to the community and surrounding area and take care of the media all in one. We really enjoyed the day.”

Most teams brought three players and either their head coach or a top assistant, as a small handful of head coaches were out of town or unavailable.

“It’s more normal,” St. Francis Catholic coach Scott McDaniel said about the opportunity to have media day after there was no event last year due to COVID-19. “It feels like football again. Last year, even though we got to play, the half-hazard nature of the whole thing was different. This brings a little sense of normalcy for us.”

Last year, there was no spring football, or spring games.

“It’s been great getting back to some normalcy,” said Oak Hall School football coach R.J. Fuhr, whose team was state runner-up in eight-man football but make the return to 11-man this season. “Not only what we can get done but just being out there with the kids and have the kids do just normal kid stuff. We had four good weeks of spring practice and it carried right over in summer workouts and the weight room.”

Among those in attendance was Buchholz wide receiver Quan Lee, who is just 400 yards away from becoming the all-time leading receiver in Alachua County history.

“I have been in the area since 1985 and there have been some really good players at the receiver position, but numbers-wise he’s got a chance to make his mark,” said Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore. “If he duplicates or improves on last year, he might be the area’s leading receiver. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The event marked the 20-year anniversary of high school football media day in the state of Florida, which was started in 2001 by former Gainesville Sun prep editor John Patton, sports editor Arnold Feliciano, Cliff Olsen, among others, with 34 teams in a three-day period at the Gainesville Sun.

“Getting out to 34 schools was a lot to get to every school, shoot photos, and have a reporter, so Arnold and I talked about it and said, ‘how do we bring them here,’ so we decided to do it over a three-day period, and it worked out great,” said Patton, who is currently with the Ocala Star-Banner. “We are proud of that (hosting the first-ever media day in Florida). It’s great that it picked up around the state. This is a big deal for the kids.”

The high school football season is just two weeks away with the start of fall practice on Monday, August 2 (Non-contact).

The preseason classics start on August 18, while most of the first regular season games will be played on Friday, Aug. 27.

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