High School Football

Spring football is in full swing: Here’s what you need to know in Manatee County

Highlights from the 2018 season for Manatee County football teams

Here are some highlights from the 2018 season for Manatee County football teams.
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Here are some 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:

NEW COACHES

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.

NEW DISTRICTS

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.

Palmetto file photo.jpeg
Palmetto will host Sarasota Riverview in its spring game on May 17. The Tigers beat the Rams 42-35 in Week 3 of the 2018 season. Bradenton Herald file photo

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.

NEW CHAPTER

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.

SPRING SCHEDULE

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

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