The preseason games were an opportunity to hit someone other than your teammate and to gauge where your team was at following summer workouts and fall drills.
Tonight it counts.
The high school football regular season actually began last night with Buchholz’s 31-14 win against Columbia (Lake City) at Citizens Field, although Mother Nature almost had her way.
Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore, whose Bobcats are ranked No. 1 in the preseason all-classification regional rankings, came close to moving the game against the Tigers to Saturday morning.
“We went ahead and made the decision to play tonight,” Whittemore said last night after the game. “Obviously I’m glad we did because we were a gnat’s whisker away from trying to play on Saturday. But in this rainy week, here in Florida, it’s just going to keep raining, so Coach (Demetric) Jackson and myself said ‘hey, let’s just do it.’”
Weather will be a concern for Friday’s area games, including Citizens Field.
That’s where Gainesville High, which won a district title last season, hosts Vanguard (Ocala) for an Alachua County vs. Marion County showdown. The host Hurricanes, who are looking to build on last year’s success, have lost six in a row in the series.
The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 6:30 p.m. Kickoff is “scheduled” for 7 p.m., weather permitting of course.
Join myself (Play-by-play) and GHS alum/former Gator and Newberry volleyball coach Hank Rone for all the action.
Also at 7 p.m., Oak Hall School hosts St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine).
“St. Joe’s has a new coach this year so other than their Kickoff Classic film we don’t know a ton about their systems,” said Oak Hall School coach R.J. Fuhr. “They like to spread it out and their dude is No. 1. They line him up at tailback, TE, slot and outside receiver so we have to know where he is at all times.
“They have an aggressive defense typically sending at least one of their backers most plays so our O line needs to be gap sound.”
Fuhr said that the key to a win starts up front.
“It always starts with being able to run the football and stop the run,” he said. “We need to improve on our tackling from last week. We had way too many missed tackles against PK.”
The game will be audio streamed online at Main Street Daily News, beginning with pregame coverage at 6:45 p.m. with Cam Parker (Play-by-play) and Griffin Foll (Color) on the call.
Both games are a part of the Stephenson’s Septic Tank Services Game-of-the-Week.
Hawthorne, which is preparing for another title game appearance, travels to Middleburg at 7 p.m.
The host Broncos, a Class 6A program last year, is led by Utah commit Mike Mitchell. The Florida Times-Union Super 11 selection ran for 1,378 yards and 18 touchdowns (average of 8.9 yards per carry) in only eight games last season.
“Mitchell is a complete running back that has a combination of size, power, and speed,” said Hawthorne defensive coordinator Dustin Adkins. “He sees the field well and is a threat to take it the distance each play.
“The key will be to execute our assignments and rally to tackle the football. We have to play disciplined and under control in order to be successful.”
Last year’s defense allowed less than 10 points per game (9.18) and with players like Washington State commit Jailen Ruth (102 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, and 17 sacks) and defensive tackle Stanley Cooks (Georgia State University) returning, this year’s defense could be championship caliber.
“I think defensively we have the potential to be special, however potential just means we haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Adkins said. “To get to where we hope to be it takes a committed effort. We are probably faster than we were a year ago and I’m excited about the pieces that are replacing the seniors we lost last year. If we keep working we can be pretty special.”
Another team to watch out for in Hawthorne’s classification, formerly Class 1A, is Chiefland.
The Indians, who finished 11-2 last year, are primed for another long postseason run after advancing to Class 1A state semifinals.
Chiefland will travel to Crescent City tonight at 7 p.m.
“I expect a physical football team to show up against Crescent,” said first-year coach James Corbin. “Depth was our biggest issue against Eastside and having these boys back with the team is going to help us there, exponentially.”
The Indians had suspended a few of their key players last Friday, but they are back on the field tonight.
“I anticipate some mistakes to be made as we were only able to get one real practice in this week due to the weather,” Corbin added. “What I expect out of the team is to execute our base plays and to take care of our assignments on both sides of the ball.”
St. Francis Catholic Academy, which joined “The Prep Zone” sports show on Wednesday, travels to Indian Rocks Christian (Largo).
The Wolves also have a new coach as former P.K. Yonge assistant James Langham took over for Scott McDaniel, who is the new AD at St. Francis.
“I feel pleased with direction the program is heading,” Langham said following a close 14-0 loss at Franklin County in the preseason. “The boys showed up and played a full game and stayed in it with grit and physicality until the end.
Langham noted it was the first time in four years of holding a team to 14 points.
“We have plenty to continue to clean up and work out, but we are heading in the right direction and the boys have bought in.”
The Wolves are seeking their first win in three years.
“The key will be up front along both our offensive and defensive lines,” Langham said. “We have to bring the physicality from the start of the game to obtain the momentum and set the tone for what we are going to be about. Have to stay focused on our assignment and job to achieve our goal of walking out of there with our first W.”
Among some of the top games tonight, Eastside, which looks to turn the program around under alum Harold ‘Gator’ Hoskins, travels to P.K. Yonge for an Alachua County showdown. The host Blue Wave have a roster loaded with youth.
The visiting Raiders also have a new coach (Joe Szymanski) who played for the Raiders last state championship team in 1994. He aims to turn the program around.
High school football is back. Good luck this season!
High School Football Schedule – Friday, Aug. 26
Anclote (Holiday) at Bronson, 7 p.m.
Bradford (Starke) at Baker County (Glen St. Mary), 7 p.m.
Chiefland at Crescent City, 7 p.m.
Eagle’s View Academy (Jacksonville) at Branford, 7 p.m.
Eastside at P.K. Yonge, 7 p.m.
Georgia Christian at Riverside Christian (Trenton), 7 p.m.
Hawthorne at Middleburg, 7 p.m.
Saint Francis Catholic Academy at Indian Rocks Christian (Largo), 7 p.m.
St. Joseph Academy (St. Augustine) at Oak Hall School, 7 p.m.
Suwannee (Live Oak) at Flagler Palm Coast, 7 p.m.
Vanguard (Ocala) at Gainesville, 7 p.m.
Bell at Trenton, 7:30 p.m.
Dixie County (Cross City) at Lafayette (Mayo), 7:30 p.m.
Hamilton County (Jasper) at Williston, 7:30 p.m.
Santa Fe (Alachua) at Newberry, 7:30 p.m.
Shorecrest Prep (St. Petersburg) at Countryside Christian, 7 p.m.
Taylor County (Perry) at Fort White, 7:30 p.m.
Union County (Lake Butler) at University Christian (Jacksonville), 7:30 p.m.
OFF – Keystone Heights