It’s time to put the pads on and hit someone other than your own teammate.
The regular season is still a week away but tonight is a dress rehearsal of sorts for high school football teams who will play in preseason Kickoff Classics.
Some teams will play their varsity for a half, while others will play as many as three or four quarters.
Last night Eastside and Chiefland hosted games, with the Rams falling to Beachside (St. Johns), 43-13 (30-13 after three quarters), and the Indians’ game against Bradford (Starke) ending after a half due to severe weather.
Chiefland, which played without starting quarterback Matthew Goodale (who broke his non-throwing hand), trailed 28-6 at the half.
“Last night was a good test against a great team,” said Chiefland coach James Corbin. “We weren't able to get on the field Tuesday or Wednesday because of lightning and the lack of reps definitely showed. When we were able to execute we were able to move the ball fairly well, but putting the ball on the dirt and turning the ball over on our first two possessions put us in a really tough spot early on.”
Last year Bradford made a run all the way to the Class 2S state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Cocoa.
Corbin said there are some positives to take away from last night’s game heading into their season opener next Friday at rival Williston.
“I, and the team, felt we were starting to build up momentum going into the half as our kids started to adjust to the speed of the game,” he said. “We need to use that momentum we felt as a team in practice and get everyone back to proper execution.”
Tonight at 7 p.m. defending 1R state champion Hawthorne travels to North Florida Christian in Tallahassee to face a perennial power.
“We just want to see something on film,” said Hawthorne coach Cornelius Ingram, who led the Hornets (12-0) to their first football state title in program history last December. “We have a lot of young guys who are in key positions now. Just see them on film, let them run around and make plays on both sides of the ball. There won’t be any special teams but it’s great to be able to get that film and then break it down and make those corrections.”
Last year the host Eagles, who are tied for fourth all-time with seven FHSAA football state titles, went 11-1 and lost in the Class 1S-Region 1 Final at Munroe (Quincy).
“Historical program,” Ingram said. “My first varsity playing time as a quarterback when I moved up from JV was against North Florida Christian and Ernie Sims (FSU/1st round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2006) was the linebacker, so it was a long night for us. I ended up playing well, we ended up losing the game, but I got my feet wet.”
Buchholz will play with varsity players only in its 7 p.m. game against Wekiva, with no limitations to who plays in the first three quarters.
However, the fourth quarter will be strictly limited to varsity back-up players. Wekiva will only be traveling with their varsity team and likewise, the Bobcats’ junior varsity team will not be suiting up for the Kickoff Classic this year.
According to first-year head coach Chuck Bell, it will be first team players through the first three quarters and second and third team players in the fourth quarter.
“Wekiva features a roster filled with Division 1 caliber players who will provide a difficult early-season test for us,” Bell said. “Defensively, we'll be challenged by an experienced quarterback and a host of talented receivers. On the offensive side of the ball, we hope to be able to have some success consistently blocking an extremely physical defensive front.”
It’s a good test for Buchholz, which will travel to Columbia (Lake City) next Friday night for the regular season opener.
“My expectation is that our kids will execute our game plan for all four quarters and play disciplined football with positive energy and enthusiasm,” Bell said.
The key for all teams tonight is to stay healthy and gain some valuable feedback about game time situations.
“Just looking forward to playing a quality opponent for preseason, get a test and see what we need to work on going into the regular season,” said Union County (Lake Butler) football coach Andrew Thomas.
The Class 1R Tigers will play a Baker County (Glen St. Mary) team that went 9-4 last year and advanced to the Class 2S-Region 4 Final, falling at Bradford (Starke), 28-17.
In a Class 1R showdown in Mayo, Lafayette will host Newberry.
Varsity will play three quarters followed by the younger guys in the fourth quarter.
“Lafayette is a well-coached and very athletic team coming off of a playoff run last season and will be a great measuring stick for us going into the regular season,” said Newberry coach Ed Johnson. “I hope to see kids playing with great energy, communicating on both sides of the ball, executing assignments and handling adversity.”
Oak Hall will travel to Mount Dora Christian in a matchup of playoff teams from 2022.
The starters from both teams will play the first half. The third quarter will have a lot of second and third string mixed in and then the fourth quarter will be situational (i.e. five plays each goal line/redzone, live up front for extra point and field goal, and live up front for punt).
“Mount Dora will be a very good test for us,” said Oak Hall coach R.J. Fuhr. “They've played in the state championship game for the SSAC three years in a row and they have a lineman committed to Army and some very good football players. It will be a very good test for us.”
Fuhr said he wants to play error-free football (no turnovers/limited penalties), give his kids a chance to hit someone in a different color jersey, and most importantly come out of the game healthy.
At 7:30 p.m., Bell will travel to Dixie County (Cross City).
Varsity will play the first half and into the third quarter and then the JV will intermingle in the third and play in the 4th quarter.
“I have a ton of respect for the coaches at Dixie, it’s going to be a physical game,” said Bell coach Joey Whittington. “I’m looking to see our boys compete and execute, line up correctly, and run the offense and defense. I want to see how some of the younger guys handle a varsity game environment.”