AVON PARK - A major thunderstorm rolled through Avon Park on Wednesday afternoon, but cleared out in time for the Red Devil football team to conduct practice in preparation for tonight's Preseason Classic against Tenoroc.
It was nearly a year ago when Avon Park hosted the Titans in a preseason game.
Avon Park trailed by a score of 18-6 in the fourth quarter before scoring 20 unanswered points in a 26-18 win. A new coach, new philosophy and visions of football glory came back to Avon Park that night.
Little did they know at that time they would only score 32 more points over the next 10 games, 20 of them against Hialeah Gardens, and finished the season at 2-9.
This year Avon Park travels to Tenoroc for the Preseason Classic. Again they will have a new coach and a new philosophy. Visions of football glory may be more reserved than last year, but there is a sense that this year's team will be more competitive as practices are more disciplined.
This first game allows new Avon Park Coach Wade Jackson to see how his team is going to respond when actually playing another team.
"We have been out here against each other," said Jackson. "Doing drills and doing real well. What is going to happen when we have to deal with an opponent on the other side. Are they going to keep the same intensity and same hunger, that's what I am looking for. To see if they can carry it to the game field from the practice field, hopefully they can."
With his offensive and defensive lines fairly established, Jackson named sophomore Lauer Lewis as the starting quarterback.
"Lauer has been more consistent in running the plays and passing the ball at this point," said Jackson.
Jackson also noted that junior Recarus Burley and sophomore Cody Littles will see time behind the center.
To complete the backfield, sophomore Joe Nance and junior JC Cobb will rotate as running back while seniors Mason Jahna and Christian Suarez share the fullback duties.
"We are going to start with our number ones," said Jackson. "And move on from there. We just have to see how it works out and make adjustments. That's what Friday night is for."
This is a preseason game that does not count toward the regular season record and as such Jackson noted that as a courtesy both he and the Tenoroc coach exchanged films and some things that they were going to do or work on during the game.
For example, Jackson cited that Tenoroc does not plan to ever punt the ball and they will onside kick on every kickoff. This prompted Jackson and his coaching staff to work on receiving onside kicks.
Jackson specified that playing their first game on the road did not make a difference to him.
"I rather play here," said Jackson. "But we aren't, so we cannot worry about that. These kids are ready to go. I'm not going to be nervous, I have done this a lot of times, this time I am the head coach."
The main thing he is looking for tonight is for his kids to step up and establish themselves early.
"We've got some young kids that I think can do a lot of good things," the Red Devil coach said. "I want to see them come out and have a good time, fly around the field and let it all hang out."
Kickoff is set for 7 tonight at Tenoroc in Lakeland.