Friday Night Lights will light up across North Central Florida as high school teams begin their respective seasons this weekend. Local teams didn’t waste any time in renewing city rivalries and hosting great matchups in this first week.
Tonight, Oak Hall starts the season by playing the Florida School for the Deaf. The best of the Friday bouts:
Eastside (5A District 5) @ Buchholz (7A District 1) - The race for the Gainesville city championship gets underway Friday as the Rams challenge Buchholz for intercity domination. Both of these squads made the playoffs in their respective divisions and are looking to do the same this year.
Eastside head coach Jeff Parker says that this Rams team is driven by a strong group of upperclassmen.
As for the Bobcats, head coach Mark Whittemore says he likes his squad’s physicality and unity as a team.
Gainesville (6A District 5) @ Columbia (6A District 3) – While the Purple Hurricanes aren’t playing an in-city foe this week, GHS has its own challenges in this new season. It’s the first year under new head man Mark Latsko for the Canes.
GHS is a program that has seen a lot of recent success (47-9 the last four years), and that’s a banner Latsko looks to continue to carry. GHS also has to deal with the loss of wide receivers Chris Thompson & Case Harrison (Gators) and linebacker Keith Kelsey (Louisville). Still, there is a lot of talent, including senior linebacker Juan Jenkins for GHS to build around.
As for Columbia, they also lost a big time player in offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss). Now they are lead by Florida State safety commit Trey Marshall.
St. Francis (Independent) @ St. Johns Country Day (Independent) – Another area team with a new head coach, the St. Francis Wolves begin their first season under new head man David LaMarre.
Also new for Saint Francis is that they will be playing independent football. LaMarre says this will make the schedule more competitive, while not affecting how they prepare and play for games. He goes on to say that there’s a lot of be excited for with this Wolves squad.
Santa Fe (5A District 5) @ Newberry (1A District 7) – These two squads had nearly opposite years last season. The Raiders struggled, going 1-9, with their only win over Eastside. Meanwhile the Panthers went 9-4, making it to the state semifinals in 1A. But everyone starts the new season at 0-0. Both head coaches think that summer workouts really improved their teams.
All games get underway at 7.