6 IS ANYBODY SLEEPING ON APOPKA AGAIN? Not us. A year ago, Apopka – coming off a sub-standard 6-5 season in 2011 – was playing sophomores and juniors all over the field and was nowhere to be found in our preseason top 25.
The Blue Darters looked average at best in a 1-2 start.
But average turned out to be pretty awesome when Apopka got healthy,
happy and hot enough to average 48. 4 points in a playoff spree that concluded with a breathtaking 53-50 win over Cypress Bay for the 8A state
The Blue Darters have to replace three offensive linemen, but are
loaded on offense and blessed with a returning starter at all positions but
middle linebacker on defense.
“This team has worked as hard as any we’ve had,” said coach Rick
Darlington, whose son, Zack, quarterbacks the prolific offense. “I think
it’s going to be our strongest team. It’s a fast team, and obviously it’s an
experienced team. It’s not at all a complacent team.”
The schedule includes an Aug. 25 game at South Carolina power Byrnes
that will count as Apopka’s opener.
7 WHAT NAMES DO PRO FANS ALREADY RECOGNIZE? Money is scarce for public schools these days, but it seems to be no object for former NFL football players who are willing to give back to the game as high school coaches. The pros to preps
trend continues this year.
Ricky Watters, who ran for more than 10,000 yards in the NFL and
scored three TDs in San Francisco’s 1995 Super Bowl win, is a rookie
head coach at Oak Ridge of Orlando, the city he retired to in 2001.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars QB Mark Brunell is the new coach for
Jacksonville Episcopal. He had been a quarterbacks coach for nearby
Providence Christian in 2012.
Another former NFL QB and former UCF head coach, Mike Kruczek, is
now the head coach at Trinity Prep of Winter Park, which is a short throw
away from the house his family kept while he coached as an assistant in
the NFL, UFL and UMass over the past nine years.
8 WHAT ABOUT OTHER ADDRESS CHANGES? Pete Walker, who won two state championships with Kelvin Taylor and a third without him in 10 seasons at Belle Glade Glades Day, is back at his alma mater, Clewiston. Walker was a
senior on Clewiston’s 1992 title team that tied Jefferson County in the 2A
final and coached the Tigers in 2002. He has made the playoffs in all 14
of his seasons as a head coach.
Tim Cokely, who led North Florida Christian to five state championships
in six seasons (1996-2001) and returned from Georgia to pocket a fifth
title in 2008, is back in Tallahassee as head coach at storied Leon ( 2-8).
Cokely went 8-2 in his one season at Marianna last year.
Crestview, which hasn’t won a district title since 2005, landed a proven
winner in Tim Hatten, who went 72-29 at Haines City through 2001. He
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was at Pearl River Community College the past 11 seasons, going 80-30
with a 2004 national championship and four Mississippi state JUCO titles.
9WHAT’S THE DEAL AT IMG? Bradenton’s IMG Madden Football Academy is best known as a training stop for NFL players and potential pros. But a third- year program headed by former Florida State University Heisman Trophy QB Chris Weinke branches out this fall to field its first high
IMG’s squad includes intriguing Canadian QB prospect Michael
O’Connor ( 6-4, 225, Sr.), who enrolled in the spring. O’Conner played for
Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., last season.
The IMG Academy franchise dates to the 1978 birth of Nick Bollettieri’s
iconic assembly line for tennis pros and has expanded over the years to
house and train athletes in golf, basketball, soccer, baseball and lacrosse.
A football stadium is scheduled to be ready for a preseason game
against Palm Beach Lakes and IMG has regular season dates with the
likes of Naples, Olympia, Trinity Catholic, Monsignor Pace and Jacksonville Trinity Christian.
“We wanted to play established teams and see where we stack up,”
IMG resonates globally, but Manatee County school officials are worried
about the athletes who could be lured away from their schools. Manatee
High coach Joe Kinnan said the decision has been made not to play IMG
in any sports.
“That’s sad, because we could develop good local rivalries,” Weinke
said. “We’re not raiding any local players. That’s not what we do. Families
reach out to us.”
10 IS THE CITRUS BOWL STILL RIPE FOR THE FINALS? The Florida High School Athletic Association’s agree- ment with Orlando to host the state football finals has one more year, with an option to extend through 2014 by
mutual agreement. All indications are that the city and the Central Florida
Sports Commission want the eight championship games to stay at the
The FHSAA still seems pleased with the management and the central
location, if not attendance figures that have lagged since the debut for
Orlando in 2007. Combined attendance for all eight championship games
in 2012 was 29,953, with Apopka vs. Cypress Bay drawing 8,009. The
previous total attendance numbers were: 52,750 in 2007; 36,087 in
2008; 33,008 in 2009; 33,653 in 2010; and 27,164 in 2011.
“We have a great working relationship with Orlando and the Central Florida Sports Commission,” FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing said.