Highlights from the 2018 season for Manatee County football teams
The return of Friday night lights is still more than three months away, but high school football teams across the state are hard at work preparing for the 2019 season during spring workouts.
Teams can hold up to 20 practice sessions during the spring, culminating with either a game or a jamboree.
Here are five things to know for Manatee County teams as spring workouts wind down, plus the spring game schedule:
Spring workouts are especially crucial for Lakewood Ranch and Bradenton Christian, which have a new head coach leading the program.
Rashad West, the head coach at alma mater Southeast for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, takes over a Mustangs program that went 0-10 last season.
West, who spent last season away from coaching, replaced Christopher Culton at Lakewood Ranch. Culton left after one season to become the first coach at the new Parrish Community High.
Greg Williford, previously an assistant coach at three Manatee County programs, takes over a Bradenton Christian program that went 3-6 last season.
Williford, who most recently served as the offensive coordinator at nearby Saint Stephen’s, replaced Dan Fort, who stepped down to become the Panthers’ athletic director.
Prior to his five years with the Falcons, Williford was an assistant coach at Bayshore and Braden River.
Meanwhile, the inaugural season at Parrish Community will feature an eight-game (four home, four away) junior varsity schedule.
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s district assignments (based on school enrollment) for the next two seasons brought an end to a pair of big rivalries — Braden River-Venice and Manatee-Sarasota Riverview.
Here are the district lineups for the 2019 and 2020 seasons for Manatee County’s six public-school programs:
Class 5A-District 12: Bayshore, Booker, St. Petersburg Gibbs, Tampa Chamberlain, Tampa Robinson, Tampa Jesuit.
Class 6A-District 12: Braden River, Palmetto, Punta Gorda Charlotte, Port Charlotte, Southeast.
Class 7A-District 10: Lakewood Ranch, Manatee, Sarasota, Venice.
NEW LOOK FOR POSTSEASON
The FHSAA will be using its third playoff qualification formula in four seasons, with a Rating Percentage Index system replacing the points system that determined at-large postseason qualifiers in Classes 5A-8A and all participants in Classes 1A-4A for the past two years.
The RPI system will be based 35 percent on a team’s record, 35 percent on the record of a team’s opponents and 30 percent on the record of opponents’ opponents.
The FHSAA will use the formula to select playoffs teams and seed them accordingly.
Also, the FHSAA announced that the 2019, 2020 and 2021 state championship games for Classes 4A-8A will be held at Daytona Stadium in Daytona Beach. Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee will host Classes 1A-3A.
Camping World Stadium in Orlando was the host site for the past 12 years.
NEW PACE OF PLAY
In February, the National Federation of State High School Associations approved a 40-second play clock, which brings a substantial change to the 25-second clock that Florida teams have been playing under for years.
Previously, the 25-second clock started at the discretion of the referee. Under the new system, the clock will begin ticking down from 40 seconds as soon as the previous play has been whistled dead.
The change is intended to “establish a more consistent time period between downs,” according to the NFHS.
Manatee and Southeast ended their storied rivalry after the 2016 season, but the Hurricanes (representing West Bradenton) and the Seminoles (representing East Bradenton) are scheduled to meet in an Aug. 16 Kickoff Classic at Paul Maechtle Field at John Kiker Memorial Stadium.
Manatee had won 10 straight in the series — the programs first met in 1974 — before the rivalry went on hiatus.
Thursday, May 9
Jamboree: Saint Stephen’s, Orlando Central Florida Christian and Citrus Park Christian at Winter Haven All Saints’ Academy
Wednesday, May 15
Tampa Catholic at Bayshore
Thursday, May 16
Lakewood Ranch at Lecanto
Winter Haven at Manatee
Haines City Ridge Community at IMG Academy
Friday, May 17
Braden River at Lehigh Acres Lehigh Senior
Sarasota Riverview at Palmetto
Southeast at Naples Barron Collier
Bradenton Christian at St. Petersburg Northside Christian
Jamboree: Out-of-Door Academy, Holy Trinity and Largo Indian Rocks Christian at St. Petersburg Keswick Christian
Tuesday, May 21
Cardinal Mooney at Sarasota