High school football begins tonight with several preseason games, better known as “Kick-Off Classics” around the area.
Gainesville High School welcomes Class 8A, Flagler Palm Coast to Citizens Field for the first time. GHS head coach Mark Latsko says there are two ways to look at the game plan for the season opener.
“I think there’s two trains of thought, you know, going in to it I think if you’re running a brand new system and kind of got things you don’t want everybody to see because it’s new to you guys, I think you’re real vanilla. And then there’s the other train of thought, that you show a little bit of everything to make sure all the other teams have to spend time game planning multiple formations and multiple personnel groupings.”
Gainesville finished last year’s season with a record of 7-6 but Latsko says they will not treat this game any differently than a regular season game.
“It really all is where and what your team is going to be that year, so we’re putting on the game jerseys and taking the bus to Citizens Field and it’s under the Friday Night Lights so we’re going to try and come away with the W.” he said.
Quarterback Caelan Christian returns for his senior year and after two years as the starter, Latsko is confident on the offensive side of the ball. Things have changed from last year to maximize the defensive plays this upcoming season.
“Defensively we changed our base three-four alignment to a three-three alignment so that’s a little bit new. That’s what we installed in the spring time and we were happy with the effort that the defense gave against West Orange. They caught a couple red zone touchdown passes and that’s going to happen against any defense. We’re excited and we’re trying to figure out how we can get the most play makers on the field at any one given time and making sure everybody’s a runner and hitter on the defensive side of the ball.”
Another game under the lights will be down in Ocala as the Buchholz Bobcats travel to face Trinity Catholic. Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore says his team has put a lot of work into the off-season and believes they are a very unified group.
“I really, really like them. I like this year from a standpoint of the chemistry we have developed. We’ve got a bunch of hard working kids this year and have not had any personalities that have tried to vault themselves above the team. Right now we are really in a good place to start the season.”
One player Whittemore has seen improvement from is senior quarterback Jackson White.
“Jackson is another year stronger, smarter, and just a better football player after a great off season. He had a great spring game against Lincoln. He’s throwing strikes and using his feet very well.”.
Palatka High school welcomes the Eastside Rams tonight and Rams coach Jeff Parker says the team has shown a lot of improvement during the summer but their biggest weakness is depth.
“We definitely have some young men that can fly around any make plays for us. We are a little thin this year numbers wise so we’ve just got to make sure we stay healthy and that’s going to be a key for us this season. Our young men need to be able to play every game and keep guys around and not have any injuries where we lose them for the season.”
Parker also breaks down the drastic changes in district play for this upcoming year.
“We are a three team district. We dropped down from seven teams to only three teams. It’s us, North Marion, and Belleview. With North Marion being on the schedule, they definitely have a powerhouse. They have a traditionally great program. I think they have high expectations for the year from what I’ve seen all over in the media. With Belleview down there with Phillip Yancey as the head coach and Coach Yancey is a legend around here and he’s done a great job with X’s and O’s. You always have to be prepared for those two teams, but we are excited it’s a three team district.”
Oak Hall’s new head coach, Matt DiBernardo, will have his debut tonight when he and the Eagles host the Ocala Christian Crusaders.
P.K. Yonge will be on the road face Newberry High School.
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