Posted: 2:34 pm Friday, August 1st, 2014
By Anthony Chiang and Jodie Wagner
Fall practice began Monday and PBgametime has you covered.
Jodie Wagner (@JRWagner5) and Anthony Chiang (@Anthony_Chiang) will be visiting practices around Palm Beach County throughout the month of August, and we’ll list everything we observe here. We’ll also provide insight from coaches and players as teams prepare for the regular season.
According to the FHSAA, teams can start full contact practices on Aug. 9. Kickoff classics will be played the week of Aug. 22 and the first Friday of the regular season is Aug. 29. Here is a full list of kickoff classics involving area teams.
Thursday, Aug. 21
When observing Jupiter Christian practice, senior Kyle Tuttle stood out.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Tuttle is not only one of the best wide receivers on the team, he’s also the Eagles’ top defensive player. Although he’s undersized, Tuttle uses his football IQ to dominate as a middle linebacker.
“I feel like defense is really my position,” he said. “I might not play linebacker in college, but maybe I’ll put on a few pounds and play safety somewhere. Defense is really where I thrive.”
Tuttle always finds himself around the ball, as he recorded 64 tackles and six sacks last season. He is will waiting on his first offer, but he has received interest from Lafayette and Lehigh.
“I read offenses pretty well,” Tuttle said. “I read the offensive line well and I’m not looking in the backfield a lot. I stay true to my keys.”
Whether schools are recruiting Tuttle as a linebacker, defensive back or wide receiver, he doesn’t mind. He’s just determined to play college football.
“I just want to get to the second level,” Tuttle said. “That’s what I’m about. Wherever they put me, I’ll play anywhere. I’m just a football player.”
Thursday, Aug. 14
There are some tough football districts in Florida, and then there’s District 15-6A.
Suncoast coach Jimmy Clark, whose team finished sixth last season in what was then an eight-team district, acknowledges his Chargers have a challenge ahead of them in 2014.
The district includes four teams from Broward County, including 2013 champion Fort Lauderdale-Dillard, and talented Boynton Beach, which finished as runner-up last year.
Yet Clark is confident Suncoast has the talent and drive to compete with the district’s top teams.
“We want to make the playoffs,” he said. “But we realize that’s going to be a challenge. We think we’re up to the challenge. We’re in one of the toughest districts that exist. Our kids know they’ve got to be on their game every single week.”
Suncoast returns eight starters on defense and eight on offense this season, including junior quarterback Matt Dame, who threw for more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2013, and senior fullback Gabe Hineman.
Senior defensive backs Marquavis Gibbs and Jamari Bozeman will anchor the Chargers’ defense.
Clark is happy with what he’s seen from his players during fall practice and looks forward to getting on the field Aug. 22 for the Chargers’ kickoff classic against Jupiter Christian.
“We’ve had some very good leadership from our captains,” he said. “Our offense is coming along nicely, and the defense is coming along nicely.”
Tuesday, Aug. 12
Ray Berger’s brief tenure at Olympic Heights has been an interesting one so far.
The long-time Santaluces and Spanish River coach was hired just a week before the start of fall practice and has worked hard to familiarize himself with his players and staff.
“This is something that I’ve never dealt with before,” he said. “It’s almost like building a program at a brand new school. It’s hard to describe. We’re getting there. This is like Friday Night Lights, season 4.”
Berger inherits a young Lions squad that went 2-8 overall last season and 1-6 in District 13-7A.
With just three seniors on its roster, Olympic Heights faces a big challenge in 2014. District opponents include defending state champion Dwyer, district runner-up West Boca and playoff hopefuls Royal Palm Beach, Atlantic and Lake Worth.
Berger, though, is confident he has his team heading in the right direction.
“Our expectations right now are to build a program,” he said. “I don’t plan on going anywhere. I plan on staying there and doing it the right way. I don’t like taking short cuts. I’m not going to risk safety and injury to these kids. I’m not going to rush. We’re on our own schedule.”
When Santaluces head coach Jason Bradley was asked what he has learned about his team since fall practice began last week, he didn’t hesitate to give an answer.
“I learned that we’re a long way away, I guess,” Bradley said. “Everybody is probably in the same boat. We have a lot of work to do.”
The Chiefs return two offensive starters and four defensive starters from a team that finished with a 6-4 record and missed the playoffs in 2013.
Santaluces graduated star wide receivers Darrell Langham, who is now playing at Miami, and Khurazze Williams. The Chiefs will also have to replace quarterback Luis Martinez, who threw for 2,218 yards and 24 touchdowns last season.
Despite all of that, Santaluces has a chance to earn one of the playoff spots in a wide open District 10-8A. Palm Beach Central seems like the favorite to win the district, but the Chiefs are one of the teams capable of challenging the Broncos.
“I don’t view the district as being down,” Bradley said. “We saw Palm Beach Central in 7-on-7 tournaments and they looked pretty good. Park Vista is always going to be tough because that’s a rivalry game. John I. Leonard is going to be better and Boca Raton has coach Eric Davis. There are a lot of good coaches in the district and I think it’s going to be pretty tough.”
Bradley, who was Santaluces’ offensive coordinator last season, will call the offensive plays again this year. The scheme will be similar, but Bradley said he expects to have a more “balanced” offense after passing the ball a lot last season.
Bradley expects tight end/linebacker Zach McCloud to play a big role in the offense. McCloud (6-3, 215) will be a junior this fall.
“I think he’s going to be a star in this county by midseason,” Bradley said of McCloud.
Monday, Aug. 11
Jupiter continues to improve as the Warriors prepare for a third season under head coach Doug Uccellini.
Jupiter, which finished third last season in four-team District 9-8A, will be challenged in 2014 as it faces tough district and non-district competition.
The Warriors’ schedule includes five games against playoff teams from 2013, including Seminole Ridge, Palm Beach Gardens, Dwyer, Cardinal Newman and Park Vista, plus an Oct. 3 district contest against up-and-coming Wellington.
Yet Uccellini, whose team won’t play its first home game until Sept. 12 because of a delay in turf installation at the school’s football stadium, is confident his young team will be competitive.
“This group is very much together,” he said. “We’re trying to get better and better every single day. The district is difficult. The competition is fierce throughout the whole schedule.
“As we progress, I think we’re going to be a lot better. We’re just focusing on fundamentals.”
Senior Ryan Tamasi will start at quarterback for the Warriors. A former linebacker, Tamasi fits in well with Jupiter’s offensive scheme, Uccellini said.
“Our offense lends itself to a linebacker-type quarterback,” Uccellini said. “We do a lot of blocking with our quarterback.”
Friday, Aug. 8
Oxbridge enters its second season of football competition with high expectations following a 9-2 finish last year in the now-defunct Gulf Atlantic Football Conference.
The Thunderwolves joined the independent Gold Coast Football Conference earlier this year and look forward to playing a challenging schedule that features teams from four counties throughout South Florida as well as Lakeland and Cape Coral.
“We’ve really tried to fill our schedule with with schools that are known qualities,” Oxbridge coach Doug Socha said. “We’re excited. This year we want to take another step to be challenged.”
The Thunderwolves were young last season, with mostly freshmen and sophomores filling out the roster.
Those players are a year older this season and are expected to provide valuable leadership as Oxbridge prepares for a potential move to FHSAA competition in 2015.
“That’s a natural progression for us as we build this program,” Socha said. “We were freshmen- and sophomore-heavy last year, and we’ll be sophomore- and junior-heavy this year. And the next year we should naturally be a year ahead of that.
“With that growth, we’ll definitely try to move up.”
The Thunderwolves, who open the regular season Sept. 5 at Lakeland Christian, return 17 starters from last year’s team and will have plenty of depth heading into conference play.
Angelo Navaroli and Kyle Hollander are battling for the starter’s role at quarterback, while a handful of other positions remain open.
“There’s some spots where there’s a lot more competition,” Socha said. “There’s some guys that played a lot of football last year. Now they have to compete even more than they did last year to get on the field.”
Palm Beach Gardens has found its guy to replace three-year starter JP Caruso at quarterback.
Junior Hunter Aranda won the job, beating out Adam Pearl and transfer Shannon Patrick in the spring. Aranda spent last season as Caruso’s backup.
“I learned a lot from JP,” Aranda said. “He taught me everything I need to know to be a good high school quarterback. I don’t feel any pressure in replacing him, but I really want to do just as good as him and try to win a state championship.”
When I met Aranda this week, the first thing I noticed was his size. This kid is big (6-3, 215). He might be even bigger than that.
The second thing that took me by surprise was that he likes to run. Aranda can throw the ball, but he enjoys using his legs and lowering his shoulder in the process.
“I’m kind of a pocket passer, but I really like to run the ball a lot, too,” Aranda said. “If I have to, I’ll take off.”
The Gators have the defense and the weapons around Aranda to make a deep playoff run this season. But Aranda is the big question mark. His play will dictate just how far Palm Beach Gardens will go.
Wednesday, Aug. 6
A strong off-season has put Seminole Ridge in a good position at the start of fall practice.
The Hawks, who made the playoffs last season and finished 6-5 overall, have high expectations for 2014 following a summer of camp participation and workouts.
“We’re really pleased with where we are right now,” coach Scott Barnwell said. “Some kids have made great strides for us. That’s been a welcoming thing.”
The Hawks return 10 starters from last season, including standout defensive back Jalen Young and running back Kerrith Whyte.
Veteran leadership will be key for Seminole Ridge, whose district opponents this season include state semifinalist Palm Beach Gardens and improving Wellington and Jupiter.
“I like my kids to be challenged,” Barnwell said. “We’re excited about our district. We think it’s a good district.”
Senior James Parson and junior Dalton Trimble will battle for the starter’s role at quarterback, Barnwell said. A decision most likely will not be made until the eve of the Hawks’ kickoff classic against South Plantation Aug. 22.
Palm Beach Lakes has gotten a year older and a year wiser, and coach Willie Snead is hopeful that veteran leadership and experience will translate into wins for the Rams this season.
Palm Beach Lakes, which finished 5-5 overall and 3-4 last season in tough District 13-7A, returns 16 players (8 on offense and 8 on defense) and expects to challenge for a playoff berth.
“We decided at the outset (last season) to go with younger guys in the hopes that they would be more experienced this coming year,” said Snead, who is entering his third year at Palm Beach Lakes. “The bar’s been set very high for the program this year.
“Our kids are very excited about the season. We’re expecting to improve upon what we did last year.”
Making the playoffs won’t be easy, however. District 13-7A features defending state champion Dwyer, regional quarterfinalist West Boca, playoff contender Royal Palm Beach and improving Atlantic and Lake Worth.
Snead, though, believes his team is up to the challenge.
“You only play this game to win championships,” he said. “I think the bar that we have set gives the kids hope that they can go out and compete at the highest level.”
Tuesday, Aug. 5
It’s hard to improve an offense that scored 35 points per game and helped record the best record in program history (9-2) last season, but Boynton Beach thinks it has.
With seven starters returning and the additions of running backs Chauncey Mason and Zander Bernard, who both transferred from Park Vista in the offseason, the Tigers believe their no-huddle pistol offense can produce even better results this year.
“We have more skill and speed than we did last year,” Boynton Beach senior quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “This offense is based around speed, so it’s going to be dangerous.”
Along with the additions from Park Vista, Jackson said Tuesday he’s a better quarterback than he was at the end of 2013.
Jackson threw for 1,740 yards and 25 touchdowns, and ran for 1,401 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. But the second-best player on the PBgametime Class of 2015 Big Board worked on improving his touch and accuracy in the offseason, and the improvement has been evident in practice.
“His skill level has improved again,” Tigers coach Rick Swain said. “I didn’t know it could improve much more, but his touch passes are on point. He’s much more accurate.”
With the amount of talent Boynton Beach has on offense, Swain must now find a way to make sure each player is utilized at the correct position.
In Tuesday’s practice, Bernard was used as a running back and Mason was used as a slot receiver. However, Swain said the two players would rotate between those two spots.
“The new guys are meshing in very well,” Swain said. “Obviously, it was unexpected. But it is what it is.”
After missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade last year, American Heritage didn’t need any extra motivation this offseason.
But the Stallions got some anyway. American Heritage will play one of the most difficult early season schedules in the state.
The Stallions will open the regular season with a home game against Miramar, which advanced to the Class 8A regional finals in 2013. American Heritage’s next two games will come on the road against Miami-Gulliver and Glades Central, which both made the playoffs last season.
“We’re playing some really great teams,” Stallions assistant coach Brad Tremper said. “You have to expose them to the best and see where they’re at. It’s only going to make them better and tougher.”
Monday, Aug. 4
Royal Palm Beach sophomore quarterback Toddy Centeio looked good on the first day of fall practice following a busy summer of workouts and camps, quarterbacks coach Cody Edwards said.
As a freshman last season, Centeio accounted for 1,025 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. On Monday he threw the ball ‘really, really well,’ Edwards said.
“The ball looks good coming out of his hand,” he said. “And the opportunity we had today to see him live, he looks great going through his reads and progression. We’re just excited about him and excited about the year that he can potentially have.”
Expectations are high at Royal Palm Beach following an 8-2 season in 2013. The Wildcats barely missed out on the playoffs last year and have no intention of being left behind this season.
“Everybody is eager,” Edwards said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who can really go. We’re excited about what they can do.”
More than 100 players turned out to Wellington’s first fall practice Monday, with varsity, junior varsity and freshman players working out together.
The players will be split up later in the week, varsity coach Tom Abel said.
“The varsity really concentrates on varsity, and the JV and freshmen coaches really concentrate on their guys,” he said. “We all run the same offense and the same defense. We just have to get it all fine-tuned for the next month.”
A pair of seniors will battle this fall for the starting quarterback position at Wellington.
Devin Bolden, who filled in for injured starter Cole Smallridge last season, and Palm Beach Gardens transfer Shannon Patrick, have an equal shot at earning the starter’s role, Abel said.
“They’re both good guys,” said Abel, who does not plan to pick a starter immediately. “They both can do what we ask them to do. We’re just going to concentrate on putting everything together and making sure we’re running very smoothly before I make that call.”
Junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, who committed to Miami last month, likely will be a favorite target, along with a handful of other talented receivers and running backs.
“We have a lot of skill guys on offense,” Abel said.
Palm Beach Central quarterback Savion Harris has come a long way to suit up for the Broncos this season.
The projected starter at quarterback for Palm Beach Central, Harris played last season at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, Calif.
His new teammates in Florida have been more than welcoming, Harris said.
“It hasn’t really been an adjustment,” said Harris, a junior who will run the same type of spread offense at Palm Beach Central that he did at his former school.
“It’s good coming to a new team and a new atmosphere. It’s a great atmosphere. It’s been good out here.”
Harris is among a handful of new faces at Palm Beach Central this season, including head coach Tino Ierulli.
Ierulli, whose Broncos are two-time defending district champions, looks forward to getting to work with his new team.
“I’ve been waiting for this since January,” Ierulli said. “The kids are excited. A lot of them were told to be here at 7:30, and there were kids here earlier than that.”
After winning the Class 7A state title, Dwyer has undergone a transformation.
The Panthers graduated 36 seniors and lost 21 starters in the process. The only starter that returns is quarterback Daniel Parr, who was named the state’s Class 7A Player of the Year last season.
Even Parr looks a little different. He reported to the Panthers’ first fall practice with 15 pounds of added muscle on Monday.
“I feel good,” said Parr, who is now at about 190 pounds. “I feel stronger and I feel more physical. I just did it so I can take more hits. I want to be more of a threat in the run game.”
Although the personnel is different, Parr said he expects the team to run a similar spread offense to the one it used in 2013. However, he added that the offense could have a West Coast look with more short passes.
Star wide receiver Tavares Martin, who transferred from John I. Leonard to Dwyer in the offseason, will play a big role in making sure the offense doesn’t miss a beat.
Martin will need to have a big season if Parr is going to match last year’s production. As a junior, Parr threw for 36 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards.
“He’s going to be a lot better,” Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said of Parr. “There were growing pains last year even though he had the great numbers. But Daniel has had a phenomenal offseason. He can match those numbers from last year.”
About the Authors
Anthony Chiang began his writing career in Gainesville at the University of Florida’s student-run newspaper. At The Independent Florida Alligator, he covered the school’s golf, volleyball, baseball, and football teams. The Miami native has also written for the Sun Sentinel and MLB.com, following the Tampa Bay Rays.