Prep football | Nine Kickoff Classics get 2013 season under way Friday night

Manatee, Palmetto,BCS open at home

HERALD STAFF REPORTSAugust 23, 2013 

Greg Reaves, linebacker on Manatee High's football team, works out with Alex Bernhardt in Friday afternoon's practice. TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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The final scores don't count yet, but high school football is back Friday night across Florida.

Nine Kickoff Classics will begin the season for 10 area teams. IMG Academy opens its new stadium with a new program at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

With a full summer of 7-on-7s under his belt, a pair of great receivers at his disposal and the area's best offensive line affording him protection, Manatee Hurricanes quarterback Josh Meyer will look to air the ball out more than he did in the spring game against Tallahassee Lincoln, though he did rush for 133 yards that night against the Class 7A state finalists.

This is an ultimate dress rehearsal for the Canes (13-

1 in 2012) -- the game will be broadcast live on Bright House Sports Network, just as the Sept. 1 season opener against Gilman, Md., will be broadcast live on the new Fox Sports network. That game will be played inside University of Maryland's football stadium.

East Lake (11-2) was a regional finalist in Class 8A last season, losing to Orlando Dr. Phillips. Its top player is wide receiver Artavis Scott, who had 69 catches for 1,123 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. He has committed to Clemson and had roughly two dozen other offers, according to Rivals.

Another player to watch: Devin Abraham, son of former Tampa Bay Buccanneer Donnie Abraham. A cornerback, Devin had four interceptions last year and is a USF commit.

In other Kickoff Classics on Friday:

Southeast at Venice, 7:30 p.m. -- New quarterback Jack Shinn will test his mettle in a game between two traditional powerhouses. The Seminoles will get a good gauge of where they stand defensively with a big, athletic group.

Riverview at Palmetto, 7:30 p.m. -- Quarterback candidates Chris Tuten and Jack Allison should get equal reps tonight, and it's an intriguing battle. Tuten helped the Tigers reach the playoffs last year, but Allison, a sophomore, impressed the Tigers' coaches all spring and summer with his athleticism.

Bayshore at Punta Gorda Charlotte, 7:30 p.m. -- The Bruins begin the 2013 season against a perennially power from the south. New head coach Elijah Freeman's fresh system should be a joy for Bayshore fans, but will begin to work the kinks out.

Lakewood Ranch at Brandon, 7:30 p.m. -- Returning quarterback Chad Rex and a promising defense will make their first appearance in 2013 against a traditionally physical opponent.

Braden River at Largo Pinellas Park, 7 p.m. -- The second year of the Curt Bradley era begins with high hopes of improvement from last season's 1-9 record.

Cardinal Mooney at Bradenton Christian, 7:30 p.m. -- Quarterback Reese Vita and running back Demardre Patterson lead Mooney's offense, which could explode against a Bradenton Christian defense that allowed an average of 352 yards per game last fall. The Panthers counter with their own skill guys that can do damage, most notably Sinclair Laskett.

Saint Stephen's at Orlando Christian Prep, 4 p.m. -- The Falcons ended last year on a bit of high note by splitting their final four games, and with more than two dozen players on the roster, they have more depth than at this point last year.

Out-of-Door Academy at Naples First Baptist, 7 p.m. -- Jimmy Kuebler and Nate Strawderman are battling for the starting quarterback job, and that should clear up following their performance against First Baptist.

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