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Wimberly expecting 'his' team to push for better 2024

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 6/13/24

ORANGE PARK - Into his upcoming third year as head coach at Orange Park High School football, Marcus Wimberly is expecting that the transition to him as a new coach and the new staff around the …

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Wimberly expecting 'his' team to push for better 2024


ORANGE PARK - Into his upcoming third year as head coach at Orange Park High School football, Marcus Wimberly is expecting that the transition to him as a new coach and the new staff around the Raiders should be comfortable in 2024.

"These, so-called, my kids, have been around me for the last three years and understand the culture and expectations that we want," said Wimberly, who came to Orange Park after a Tennessee state championship and a stellar collegiate career as part of a Miami Hurricanes national championship season and brief NFL stint with the Atlanta Falcons. "The culture is starting to seep in day in and day out with the kids and the parents. Everyone is buying in. We were close last year; lost two games by one point and should have made the playoffs."

Finishing with four wins, six losses last year, with a 42-41 loss to Clay and a final game 28-27 loss in overtime to Fleming Island, plus a late season upset of playoff-bound Middleburg, 41-22, that almost got the Raiders into the playoffs, Wimberly had a team of erratic play and self-induced errors last year and saw a big difference in this year's spring game against ED White, a tough 19-6 loss.

"We made mistakes which is expected, but the effort was good," said Wimberly, who has a returning starting quarterback, Gabe Taylor, leading the offense. "The mistakes are correctable though and we have a very young team. Gabe looked better and we are working on his footwork."

Wimberly returns a bevy of firepower with his quarterback a junior, all his running backs returning; Joshua Johnson, Dylon Ruiz, and a handful of pass catchers; speedy Quinton "Q" Moore and Daniel Richardson with Damar Jackson a destructive runner and linebacker.

"The young guys know the plan now and we should be better at executing," said Wimberly. "The seniors want to bring Orange Park football back where Orange Park football belongs."

On the practice field, Wimberly brings in former Raider offensive line standout Tyler Dehart, also a top wrestler, to coach his line.

Wimberly's 2024 slate gets much more difficult with a new district and with a pre-season opener with Mandarin (11-4, 4M state runner-up) with the likes of Oakleaf, Riverside (9-3, region semifinalist), Fleming Island and Bartram Trail (8-5, region finalist) on the regular season docket including a second half meeting with Middleburg. Fleming Island and Middleburg are now with the Raiders in the newly formed district 3-5A lineup along with Ponte Vedra (8-4, region 4S semifinalist) and Beachside (9-1 in Freelance in the second season with a season-ending 66-22 win over Providence).

With Beachside the new kid on the block with just two seasons on their resume, the Barracudas were one of the most offensive productive teams in north Florida last year with six games of 40-plus points and a season-opening loss, 38-35, to Tocoi Creek. Beachside has a 2500 Yds 35TD quarterback returning and four of seven double-figure pass catchers.

"They are going to be good for sure," said Wimberly. "And, they will have a chip on their shoulder to prove they belong."

For the summer, Wimberly already finished strong, second place, in an Orlando 7 v 7 tournament, and will keep adding pieces to his puzzle.

"My main thing for the summer to compete at a high level is strength and conditioning," said Wimberly. "We saw that in the ED White game with the younger kids on the field. That will be our main focus."

Wimberly noted that the kids on the team were asking for more intensity over the summer.

"The attitude is a lot better this year," said Wimberly."They were acknowledging that they were not ready to go full speed yet. Their eyes were opened by ED White's preparation."

Wimberly plans a series of 7 v 7s with Bolles (June 12) and Bishop Snyder (June 27) visiting.