The march to the high school football regular season continues and the 11th annual installment of the Baker’s Sports high school media day served notice that it’s just about time to go. Times-Union sports writers Justin Barney and Clayton Freeman sample some of the sights and sounds from Tuesday’s event at EverBank Field.
* Two lengthy streaks come to an end this season, courtesy of District 4-5A.
Bolles will not only play rival Bishop Kenny for the first time since 2004, but also Trinity Christian. Bolles last faced Kenny on Oct. 1, 2004, and last saw the Conquerors on Oct. 13, 2000.
The Bulldogs, and new head coach Wayne Belger, visit Trinity on Sept. 15 and then Kenny on Oct. 13.
Bolles players were split on what game would be more of a draw for players and fans.
Tight end Mason Yost said that he was looking forward to being involved in the Bolles-Kenny rivalry because it’s spanned every sport but football. Defensive end Rushton Roberts and offensive tackle Nick Lewis went with the game against the Conquerors.
“Football wise, I’ve always wanted to play Trinity since I was in middle school,” said Roberts, a recent commit to Colorado State.
* Trinity Christian defensive back and five-star recruit Tyreke Johnson will have a chance to win a fifth consecutive state championship this season as the Conquerors chase a history-making crown. Only Trinity and four other teams in state history have won four consecutive titles.
But as the younger brother of former First Coast quarterback De’Andre Johnson, the area’s career leading passer in across multiple categories, Tyreke got a chance to play film critic on his older brother.
De’Andre, a sophomore quarterback at East Mississippi Community College in 2016, was featured prominently in Netflix’s second season of ‘Last Chance U’ that was released July 21.
So how did De’Andre do on the small screen?
“I give him a thumb’s up,” Tyreke said. “Never getting down on himself, he persevered through it all. He never talked down to people, he was always encouraging people [on the show].”
Social media response to De’Andre’s appearance in the eight-episode season has been overwhelmingly positive. Johnson transferred to EMCC after being dismissed from Florida State after punching a woman in a Tallahassee bar two years ago. He signed with Florida Atlantic after a dominant season at EMCC and is in contention to be the starter in new coach Lane Kiffin’s first season.
Tyreke said that he felt that ‘Last Chance U’ showed viewers a more complete version of De’Andre.
“It’s kind of wrong how the world judges people off the worst mistake of your life and the most immature time of life, a freshman in college,” Tyreke said. “So I feel like all the college coaches who didn’t recruit him and the [college] presidents that said he was a menace to society, an endangerment to our campus are finally going to get to see, ‘I messed up, I should’ve recruited him. He’s one of those kids who I really should’ve took a shot at. We missed a chance.’ ”
* Those streaks will end early. They have to.
Creekside (22 losses in a row), Ridgeview and Jackson (18 straight apiece) all enter 2017 on area-long losing skids. Those could be taken care of almost immediately.
Creekside faces Winter Springs (2-8 in 2016) in Week 1; Ridgeview visits Jackson that week. The following week, the Panthers host the Knights.
So it’s conceivable that all three of those teams could end those skids almost right out of the gate.
* David Penland III has three state championships at 32 years old and is on pace for a record-setting coaching career at University Christian.
Expect to see him moving up and down the sidelines at a slower pace.
Penland tore his Achilles playing flag football and has spent the offseason recovering. He’s off the cart and out of the boot, but Penland said that he’s not close to full speed. Maybe by the state playoffs he will be.
UC is the two-time defending Class 2A state champion and seeking its first-ever three-peat.
Among leg injuries, Penland isn’t the first coach to show up to media day bearing a surgical scar or in a cast. Two years ago, Columbia’s Brian Allen hobbled in to the preseason meet and greet on crutches with a broken ankle from an ATV accident.
* Jamie Gamel will be playing the waiting and watching game next month, and it has little to do with football.
In Week 5, Cedar Creek Christian visits Hilliard for a Sept. 22 game and Gamel hopes to be on the sidelines.
If not, it’s for good reason for the Saints coach, who has led Cedar Creek to its two state playoff berths. Gamel and his wife, Noel, are expecting their first child on Sept. 23. Childbirth rarely takes football into consideration, so Gamel said that he’s got plans in place if fatherhood makes a sooner-than-expected call.
“We have a backup plan, just in case,” Gamel laughed.
* Suwannee missed last year’s playoffs in the most agonizing way possible.
Bulldogs coach Kyler Hall said that he discussed the loss on Monday’s opening practice. The reason? He brought it up to bury it for good.
“Yesterday was the last time we were going to talk about it,” Hall said. “They know how close we were and how disappointing it was to go through that.”
On Halloween night, Suwannee lost a three-way tiebreaker on a two-point conversion against Yulee in overtime at the Bulldogs’ home stadium.
Those two, along with Ribault, Paxon and Stanton, return to contest District 3-5A this year.
* As quarterbacks like Joey Gatewood (Bartram Trail) and Carter Bradley (Providence) grab much of the attention, Parker’s Cameron Sapp is rising beneath the radar.
That’s why the Braves’ offense is getting a new look.
New Braves head coach Marcus Miller said Parker is shifting into a run-and-shoot offense, with the emphasis on shoot, to exploit Sapp’s skill set. He said the Braves launched 64 pass attempts, an almost-unknown figure for high school, in the spring game.
Miller said that Sapp, a junior, has received an offer from Florida International, and continues to attract more interest from Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
“We’re going to go as he goes,” Miller said. “He’s the grease that moves the engine.”