At 9 a.m. on Monday at Bradenton Christian School, football season officially began in Manatee County. Bradenton Christian was the first school to take the field for fall practice with every other school across the county tossing on helmets and spending a couple hours out in 90-degree heat preparing for opening night later this month.
Amid the late paperwork, which holds a stray handful of players off the field for a day or two, and the lack of contact, which will continue until players can strap on full pads Saturday, there are still some first impressions to be taken away. The first day of a months-long grind to vie for a state championship can set the tone for the season to come.
Manatee: Quarterback A.J. Colagiovanni, a first-team All-State selection in Class 8A, may not be ready for the Hurricanes’ preseason classic against Seffner Armwood on Aug. 19. The senior broke a bone in his foot in the summer and has been deemed questionable for the tune-up, head coach John Booth said. Colagiovanni should be ready for the regular-season opener against Hewitt-Trussville in Trussville, Ala., on Aug. 26, but he has a second follow-up with a doctor Wednesday.
Braden River: One of last year’s Class 7A state semifinalists, Braden River, began fall practice with numbers galore. The varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams endured the hot Florida sunshine in East Manatee County, with the varsity squad showcasing new quarterback Louis Colosimo’s arm. The IMG Academy transfer looked sharp, while the returning Raymond Thomas showed full mobility sporting a brace after suffering a torn ACL with two games remaining in the regular season last fall.
Palmetto: The Tigers were the transfer market’s big winner this summer, pulling in a pair of starting defensive backs in Derrick Bradley and Desmine Ross. PHS’ numbers are also up from last year. But Palmetto still wasn’t at full strength Monday. Offensive lineman Christian Kalish, a second-team All-Area choice last fall, is concluding a college visit to Air Force and should make his debut at practice Tuesday. Linebacker Henry Bradley, a first-team All-Area selection last fall, was also absent from fall’s first practice.
The Tigers were, however, joined by a former star as current Rutgers running back Josh Hicks helped out coaching running backs before he returns to Piscataway, N.J., for the fall.
Bayshore: Head coach John Biezuns didn’t have the Bruins quite where he hoped by the first day of practice. Too many players were missing paperwork and a handful of freshmen didn’t have helmets. BHS didn’t quite hit its goal of having 50 players out for the start of practice, but Biezuns isn’t too discouraged.
“I told my coaches,” Biezuns said, “in 17 years I’ve never had a good first day of practice.”
The area’s other two public high schools, Lakewood Ranch and Southeast, also practiced Monday. The Mustangs are coming off a three-win season, while Southeast finished as a district runner-up and was eliminated in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs last year.
Key upcoming dates
Saturday — First date for practice in pads
Aug. 19 — Preseason classic games
Aug. 26 — Regular season begins
Nov. 4 — Regular season ends
Dec. 2-3 — State finals (classes 1A-4A)
Dec. 9-10 — State finals (classes 5A-8A)