Area high school football teams will open their seasons on Friday.
Note: On Sept. 4, St. Johns Country Day School lost 54-0 to R.F. Munroe in Tallahassee.
SJCDS (3-4) at R.F. Munroe (1-9, 2A last year)
New coach Rocky Bantag will be only show on the docket, but it is in Tallahassee area. Bantag is long-time assistant coach through a handful of head coaches and has absorbed many different approaches. Derek Chipoletti added some luster to the paint and put some Tiger in the Tank. Bantag is one of strongest Spartan backers in all aspects on campus.
Keystone Heights (7-3, Region 2-4, lost in region playoff opener) at Bradford (6-6, Region 2-4A)
Both were in 4A region playoffs; Indians first round out, Bradford, lost in region finals to Bolles. Did not play each other last year; 2018-Bradford won 28-14.
Keystone Heights returns key players; QB Gage Stevens, RB/SS Colton Tibbetts, TE/DE Ian Schofield, OL Chris Hoffmeyer, but coach Dickinson must find more OLs to fuel his front assault offensive game plan. Bradford has handful of offensive weapons returning from 6-6 season with 1,000 yard rusher.
2019: Keystone Heights opened with five wins; outscoring opponents 136-39 with Crescent City owning 20 of those.
Oakleaf (7-3, 8A) at Buchholz (5-5, District 1-8A)
Interesting first game as Buchholz a former district foe, now in District 1-7A; Oakleaf 1-8A. Still the rivalry will make for good game of two outstanding offenses that put points on board. Buchholz coach Mark Whittemore is similiar to Oakleaf coach Frank Garis with points production schemes.
Bobcats have a returning 1,000 yard passer and a returning 1500 yard rusher.
Did not play last year; 2018 - Buchholz won 42-29 in a pass-festival game with both losing in region playoff openers.
Orange Park (5-5, district 5-5A) vs. Baker County (6-5 district 3-5A, lost in region opener, 2018 lost region semifinal, 2017 runnerup 5A)
Big area 5A clash to open season, but Orange Park coach Tom Macpherson is in big reload season with ton of graduates taking skill sets to next level; RB Alex Collier (10TDs, FSU track), DE Kendy Charles (120 Tackles/14TFL, Liberty U.), QB Vince Walker (1,612Yds, 11TDs) plus wideouts Sean Dixon (46 catches/6TDs), Diego Soto, loss to transfer of stud noseguard Jacob Moore and RB Terrance Johnson. Macpherson will have new QB, a big OL.
Lots of new names makes game interesting. Baker County returns RB Scooby Graham.
Clay (1-9, district 5-5A) vs. University Christian (11-2, Region 1-2A, lost in Final Four to 2A runnerup). UC won 27-8 last year.
Clay has another new coach; former defensive coach Kyle Kennard takes over with John Stilianou now at Middleburg High. Kennard is fiery competitor that could jolt lineup to performance. University Christian is perennial powerhouse and should be no different. Coach David Perland had a freshman QB last year (1,063 Yds pass/8TDs), but senior RB (1,500Yds;/20TDs).
Big first test for Kennard.
Middleburg (3-7, district 2-6A) vs. St. Augustine (6-5, lost to Lee in region opener)
St. Augustine coach Brian Braddock opened with Final Four finish in 2017 and followed with two region runs. Middleburg has to find way to close games; new QB Luke Padgett had spot duty last year behind last Justino and should take the reins. Speed with senior Jay Lane in the backfield. Gone is all-state OL Cole LeClair. Tanner Rafuse is big boy up front.
Ridgeview (1-9, district 5-5A) vs. Wolfson (7-3, region 1-3A) Wolfson had five win streak mid-season last year to glimmer with 2020 potential.
On paper, second year coach Matt Knauss has just about all he needs on offense to go big; senior QB Max Monroe, senior WRs Spencer Calise and Josh Dorsainvil, senior RB Juan Pereira with some solid transfers at LB, DT and RB that could add some pop. LB Miika Tuisano could be disruptive force on defense with Clay transfer Derrick Mosley (275 lbs) at the nose and Clay linebacker Joe Reed on his wing.
Knauss adds Father Lopez all stater Ed Whipple, a junior, for WR or strong safety as a sizeable weapon (6'-2", 210). Whipple had 47 catches last year for Lopez including a 96 yard play; plus rushed for 621 Yds with a 61 yarder, plus played defense.
Fleming Island (10-1) 9-0, lost in region semifinal, district 2-7A) vs. Palatka (2-7, region 2-4A)
Last year's game was nixed for bad weather.
Palatka has former local football hero Willie Fells running the show, but Fells has struggled with seasons of three wins only. Palatka always has athletes, but then, so does Fleming Island.
Golden Eagles coach Damenyum Springs said goodbye to outstanding class of 2019 that put Fleming Island back in the mix of playoffs and also strong collegiate presence. Springs also loses Clay High opener as springboard to season.
Gone is senior QB Dean Hyams, WR Broden Domenico, DT Jeremiah Jackson, LB Zach Payne, DE Zack Little.
Springs' lineup has a bevy of speed and power with RB Sam Singleton, a sophomore, teaming with powerful Tim Thomas, a senior. Senior T.K. Kocak was the touchdown machine last year (13 scores) and could line up anywhere on the line of scrimmage and be a weapon. New to the offense is QB Grant Travis, who returns after two years at Ed White. Travis offers a Ben Roethlisberger mold of big, tall pocket guy with cannon arm.
Think of that with speed on the corners from senior Will Stephens, sophomore Darion Domenick and any one of a number of athletes that can swiftly get downfield; untested ground there.
The strength of the defense is secondary with veterans Devin Grind, Darius Harris and Darryl Nesmith; all seniors, creating an evaporative umbrella.
One addition is Clay transfer Alex Maier at linebacker.
Fleming Island could unload in game one and just keep rolling.