It's May 1 and that means Spring football in Florida has officially begun.
We begin our tour of the state - 30 stops in thirty days - with the west panhandle - where a reshaping of districts has created some old and new rivalries.
Five things to watch in Spring Football
With Practices set to begin Wednesday, May 1st, there are many story lines to gauge looking to the 2013 prep football season, especially when it comes to the new district alignments. For the first time ever, the panhandle features a District in Class 7A, District 1 5A has become one to watch, and a couple coaches who made splashes in their first year are looking to have a better sophomore campaign. Here are the five things to watch for the upcoming season with Spring practices beginning on May 1st.
1. District 1 Class 7A
This year there will be a three team district in Class 7A. This features Niceville, Crestview, and Tate. Two of these schools have new coaches. Ronnie Douglas will head the Aggies, while Tim Hatten takes over as the Bulldogs head man. These were moves were made as Tate Fired Brad Naggatz after one year, and Kevin Pettis became the new coach at Sebastian River. With the district containing only three teams, the payoff future is a greater probability for three of these teams. We'll know what we will get out of John Hicks' Niceville program, but with two new coaches, there will be a good amount of story lines to keep an eye on.
2. Year two under Willie Spears and Jay Walls
Both and Escambia and Navarre have had successful seasons in their own way in the 2012 season. Escambia became relevant again by staying in the playoff race for a majority of the season, and Navarre made at as far as the State Semifinals. Each coach had their own set of challenges. For Willie Spears, his challenge was to put Escambia back on the map and clean up a program that had an unfortunate misjudge of character from former coach Scott Anderson. Mission accomplished. Jay Walls kept momentum going built by former coach Chad Lashley and the program he started to build. Mission accomplished.
Year two for these programs has excitement and enthusiasm. Navarre does some have some holes to fill, such as replacing Jordan Leggett who is now at Clemson, but the Raiders are expected to do well again. Escambia looks to build on what they've started both on and off the field and bring back some key talent, as well as more kids coming out to practice.
3. District One Class 5A features area's best QBs
When looking at this district, one game will be circled on everyone's schedule as a must see: West Florida Tech vs. Pensacola Catholic. Harry Lees has had his program in the playoffs the past two seasons, and Pensacola Catholic led by head coach Greg Seibert has had a rich tradition when it comes to football, especially with the amount of D1 signees the program has had.
The storyline of this game will be the quarterbacks. Joey Baker is entering his senior year at West Florida, and Cody Henry the same for Pensacola Catholic. As of right now for the spring, Henry may be unavailable as he is playing on Catholic's Baseball team, who happens to be number one in the nation according to USA Today.
And let's not forget about Gulf Breeze, who has been the District runner-up the past two seasons. Expect these three teams to have some great matchups, as the games just got a bit more important.
4. Pensacola and Pine Forest Bouncing back
You really have to do some research to see when the last time both Pensacola and Pine Forest missed the playoffs. That is until last season. Both the Tigers and Eagles are expected to make comebacks with both teams having great coaches in Mike Bennett for the Tigers and Jerry Pollard for the Eagles. Both teams will see a lot of new faces on their rosters, but expect these two to be right in the mix when it comes to District One Class 6A.
5. Can Northview make a repeat performance?
You'd expect the Chiefs to maybe have a little bit of a down year, especially when losing players such as Neiko Robinson off the roster right? Well don't write out the Chiefs just yet. There's still the other brother Robinson, Neino Robinson, and Head Coach Sid Wheatley and company will still have a plethora of talent to use. Northview could very well find themselves back in the playoffs, and defending their state title.
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