High school football season officially kicks off

Here’s a glance at prep teams in Flagler and Volusia counties

High School football
PHOTOS BY ANDREAS BUTLER/DAYTONA TIMES
The Atlantic Sharks warm up during a practice earlier this week as they prepare for their season opener.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

High School football season officially starts this week. Although exciting, last week’s games don’t count toward records and playoff chances. Here is a look at most of the area teams. 

Atlantic Sharks 

Head Coach: DJ Mayo 
Location: Port Orange 
2018 record: 5-4 

Key players: LB Ty Berrong; QB Aaron Manning; RB/WR/DB Aaron Walton; S Jae Brockington; OL/DL Noah Cortez; WR Max Campbell.

Strengths: Defense, offensive line 
Areas of concern: Depth

Outlook: The Sharks have a talented squad and should be competitive. They have a tough schedule with five playoff teams from last year. They are also in one of the toughest districts 5A9. The Sharks can compete for the playoffs but the jump from Class 4A to 5A doesn’t help.           

Coach Mayo: “I’m proud of our progress and looking forward to competing for a playoff spot.” 

High School football
DJ Mayo, head coach of Atlantic High, gives instructions to the Sharks during a practice.

Deltona Wolves

Head Coach: Allen Johnson
Location: Deltona
2019 record: 5-5

Key players: RB Javian FeltonMoore, OL Riley Belden, OL/DL Moses Shepard

Strengths: Defense
Areas of concern: Confidence, offense

Outlook: Nobody really knows what Deltona really has but themselves. The Wolves expect to be competitive. The defense should be stingy. The team needs to gel early to position themselves where they want to be. Coach Johnson: “A wolf doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of sheep.” 


Father Lopez Green Wave 

Head Coach: Christopher Stephens, first season 
Location: Daytona Beach 
2019 record: 9-3 

Key players: QB Andrew Acebal; WR/RB Eddie Whipple; LB Ryan Waddle; WR/RB Marquel Williams, OL/DL Brayden Antonelli

Strengths: Offensive skilled positions, linebacker 
Areas of concern: Offensive and defensive lines, depth, inexperience 

Outlook: The Green Wave lost a lot but return some key pieces. They have a brutal schedule and begin the season with four road games. It will be tough but Lopez can be in contention for a playoff spot. 

Coach Stephens: “We have a chance to be really good; however, we must stay healthy and catch some breaks. Our schedule is daunting.”


Halifax Academy Knights 

Head Coach: Shamus Dougherty 
Location: Daytona Beach 
2018 record: 6-4 

Key players: WR/DB Gary Spears; OL/DL Jeremiah Henley; RB/LB Clive Vernon; QB Jarrett Reddin

Strengths: Defensive front, run game 
Areas of concern: Inexperience, depth 

Outlook: The Knights lost some key players from a year ago; however, they return some key defensive pieces. If the youngsters gel on offense, they could score a lot of points. Halifax will depend on the new guys right away. Duplicating or improving upon last year’s success is possible but will be tough. 

Coach Dougherty: “We lost a lot of pieces from last year, but I feel we  could be better if we come together and buy into being a team.” 


Matanzas Bulldogs 

Head Coach: Donald Mathews
Location: Palm Coast
2018 record: 3-7

Key players: QB/RB Demontre Neely; WR Noah Cundiff; Skyelar, RB/P Williams-Michaud 

Strengths: Offense 
Areas of concern: Defensive line

Outlook: The Pirates took a step back last year but want to get back to the post season. A second year and progression in the Flexbone offense could help.

Coach Mathews: “We’re hoping that we mature. We could be competitive if we work hard.” 


New Smyrna Beach Barracudas 

Head Coach: John Wilkinson
Location: New Smyrna Beach
2018 record: 7-3 

Key players: DE Nazir Rogers; SS Jeremey Mitchell, LB Lester Jones; DB Omarion Brown, OL Seth Foreman; WR Bryce Hull; DT Bryce Goode; RB Antonio Mascote

Strengths: Experience on defense
Areas of concern: Depth, inexperience, youth on offensive line 

Outlook: The “Cudas’’ had a great season last year but missed the playoffs. Despite losing a few players, they still could be one of the area’s better teams. They should compete for a playoff spot. If the youngsters grow up early, they’ll be very competitive.

Coach Wilkinson: “Looking forward to seeing our guys play. They have invested in the program and they work very hard.” 


Pine Ridge Panthers

Head Coach: Kenny Pickens
Location: Deltona
2018 record: 0-10

Key players: DB Elijah Jones, QB/DB Chaz Williams, LB Darius May, LB Gavin Simmons, DB/ WR Najei Synder, TE/DL Denagelo Baker, DL Zech Baker.

Strengths: Continuity 
Areas of concern: Depth

Outlook: The Panthers are young but return most of last year’s starters. A few wins is an improvement. Offensive production could help. Nobody is expecting much out of them but they believe in themselves. 

Coach Pickens: “Winning on Friday nights come from work during summer workouts and being committed with a positive attitude during practice.” 


Seabreeze Sandcrabs

Head Coach: Patrick Brown, first season
Location: Daytona Beach
2018 record: 1-9

Key players: DE Joe Justice, RB Otis Walker; CB Trae Bass; OL Edon Coma

Strengths: Nucleus of seniors with experience 
Areas of concern: Continuity, chemistry 

Outlook: The Sandcrabs have a new coaching staff and a lot of new players trying to return the program back to prominence. A few victories and competitive games will be improvement. How quick the culture and mindset changes come will be key. 

Coach Brown: “I’m eager to see the players exhibit the skills they’ve been developing for the past eight months and continue to improve.” 


Taylor Wildcats 

Head Coach: Antaurn Willia ms
Location: Pierson
2018 record: 3-7

Key players: LB/RB Anson Rodriguez, DL Alan Munoz, DB/QB Slade Henderson, DL/OL/LB Ebert Andres, Chase Wolcott, WR/ LB Federico Rubio, OL//DL Josue Gayton, DL/QB Micah Smith.

Strengths: Offense line, offensive backfield, interior defensive line 
Areas of concern: Secondary 

Outlook: The Wildcats want a winning record. They play five games before their bye week; a winning record at that point is ideal. The playoffs will be a longshot with so many tough teams in Region 3A-2. 

Coach Williams: “Leadership is the key with so many young and inexperienced players.”


Trinity Christian Academy Eagles

Head Coach:  Troy Rayburn
Location: Deltona 
2018 record: 7-5, lost in first round of playoffs 

Key players: RB/LB Tyrique Scott; DB/WR Cedrick Hawkins; DB Aaron Gilmore; RB/LB Erik Freeman; RB/DL Caleb Lee.

Strengths: Veteran leadership; continuity 
Areas of concern: Lack of depth on offensive and defensive lines 

Outlook: The Eagles lost some firepower but believe they have enough to return to the playoffs. They do have some key guys back in key positions and some juniors and seniors who got lots of experience last year. 

Coach Rayburn: “We are looking to improve upon last season and make another playoff.” 


Warner Christian Academy Eagles 

Head Coach: Mike Bonneville 
Location: South Daytona 
2018 record: 0-9 

Key players: RB/LB Michael Oliver, RB/LB Cody Williams, FB/LB Rashoud McCloud; LB/ QB Mason Lewis, DL/OL Adrian Kelso.

Strengths: Continuity 
Areas of concern: Depth

Outlook: A few wins for this team that went winless a year ago is an improvement, but the Eagles like their chances to make the postseason. Everyone returns from last season. Warner plays in the Sunshine State Athletic Association’s FCS League in the east division with West Palm Beach Berean Christian and Vero Beach St. Edwards.

Coach Bonneville: “Strong faith, strong mind!’’ Note: DeLand, Flagler Palm Coast, Mainland, Spruce Creek and University did not submit requested information for this report. 


This week’s top games

DeLand at Mainland: Two of the best local teams square off. Both have state title aspirations. The Bulldogs knocked off the Buccaneers last year. Who wins this year? 

Flagler Palm Coast at Matanzas: The battle of both Palm Coast and Flagler County. The deep and talented Bulldogs will be a big challenge for the Pirates. Maybe the rivalry will make it competitive. 

Taylor at Halifax: This has become an annual season opener; maybe it becomes a good rivalry. Can the Knights build upon last season, their first winning season in 11-man football? The Wildcats want to get back to winning after a down 2018 campaign. 

Seabreeze at Spruce Creek: The new-look Sandcrabs face a tough Hawks squad on the road. 

University at Deltona: This West Volusia county rivalry features teams that play on the same home field at Deltona High. One starts with a victory and bragging rights for a year. 

Prep Sports Seven preseason rankings 

1. DeLand 2. Flagler Palm Coast, 3. Mainland, 4. Spruce Creek 5. New Smyrna 6. Father Lopez 7. Atlantic, Others: Deltona, University.

ABBREVIATION KEY:
QB=quarterback, RB=running back, FB=fullback, WR=wide receiver, OL=offensive line, DL=defensive line, LB=linebacker, DB=defensive back.

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