Pigskin summer sessions getting more physical

By Randy Lefko
Posted 7/18/18

Fleming Island Golden Eagles at JU CampJACKSONVILLE – Area football teams are still training and conditioning without pads and with “no contact” as football season openers loom in …

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Pigskin summer sessions getting more physical


Fleming Island Golden

Eagles at JU Camp

JACKSONVILLE – Area football teams are still training and conditioning without pads and with “no contact” as football season openers loom in less than two months, but as the summer wears on, intensity level will continue to rise.

Fleming Island High football, with a goal of finding replacements for three stellar linebackers all heading to college; Jack Surgeoner (Chicago), Jackson Bull (Valdosta State) and Ryan Smenda (Wake Forest), got first shot at some pads contact at the Jacksonville University summer contact camp July 11-13.

“It gives the kids a little bit of real football during summer, but the coaches are very quick to the whistle to keep the kids safe,” said Fleming Island coach Damenyum Springs. “This kind of camp kind of gives us a look at who wants to put their nose in the pile.”

At JU, Fleming Island showed off some offensive prowess with returning quarterback Dean Hyams throwing 19 touchdowns in three scrimmages against teams like Baldwin, Weeki Wachee and Key West with backup Brody Domenico throttling up the run-option for big gains off his rollouts against Key West.

Fleming Island got some good looks at running back with returner Dewayne McBride pummeling into the line for tough yards with backfield mate Brian Mattox, a newcomer given some good looks of a second strong ball carrier.

“McBride is our big gun, but Brian looks like he can steal some defensive pressure his way,” said Springs. “Our passing game can explode if we get both those guys knocking out five, eight yards on first down. Sam Snyder could have a monster year as a pass catcher.”

Snyder, a 6’-6” pass catching tight end much the same as graduated Nick Ferendo, could be Hyams favorite target by game one against Clay. Both combined for five touchdowns in two games at the 7-on-7 tournament hosted by the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the season.

On defense, middle linebacker Zack Payne looks to be one of the key fillers for Springs.

Offensive line will be led by Jackson Peery who headed up a portly-sized front at JU that opened holes for McBride and Mattox.

New to the coaching staff is former Clay High offensive guru Ryan Wolfe who lends a fast-paced attack from air and ground.

On defense, Oakleaf High linebacker mentor Kyle Kennard’s job is to fill the holes behind the defensive line. Kennard was key coach at Oakleaf during Miami’s Shaq Quarterman’s tenure with coach Derek Chipoletti.

Panthers’ pass game lethal

For Ridgeview High, in a 7-on-7 with Interlachen High, senior quarterback Tyler Huff looked sharp as usual with Brian Jackson ascending to top target for a Panther offense that should score a ton of points. Defensively, without pads, Ridgeview needs to shore up the secondary thought summer passing scrimmages are not conclusive for defensive analysis.

Jaidan Turner and Isaac Chaffin have become stable receivers for Huff with Turner also taking shots as quarterback to give Huff a break. Running back Caleb Plyler is a solid returner with Mike Green showing off some pass and catch out of the backfield ability to get past the corner and downfield quickly. One consistently good catch for yards guy has been Grayson Edwards, large tight end sized over the middle target.

Ridgeview coach Cameron Porch was missing some key defensive guys to summer camps, but returner Dominic Stanfield will fill spot with Green also stealing an interception against Interlachen. Safety Jacob Gregory also snagged a deep center post against Interlachen with Green’s a steal off a quick slant attempt.

Clay much improved: Hoekstra

At Clay High, quarterback Spencer LeSups T.K. Kocak and Tre Griner took shots against the Panthers’ defense with Griner showing off a soft touch for completions to wideout Jared Glisson and Ramone

Bradley. Kocak, against the Nease number one defense, suffered two interceptions on bad reads; one an inside pick on an out pattern that could have went the distance in real game play. Kocak did connect with wideout Austin Anderson for a score on a slant pattern after two big catch and runs from running back Cedrick Brown out of the backfield and wideout Derek Holt, looking better each week after returning from an injury suffered last year.

“Senior Turner Erstad is slated to be cleared to play soon, but we are getting good looks from all three guys,” said Clay coach Joshua Hoekstra. “Tre is a sophomore and is improving each week. Ramone can be a player for us.”

On defense, Clay coach Rodney Keller had defensive end Cody Devore back on the field with a mix of line set up and standing as a cover linebacker. Cain Creery was at one outside backer with Mason Adams a probable inside backer.

In the secondary, senior Dylan Taylor looks to be that leader with pick-six interception against Nease. Also senior Marcus Dixon, with an imposing 6’-2” build snagged an interception much to the pleasure of Hoekstra.

“Ken Johnson, a defensive end at 6’-3”, 245 lbs. will add some pressure with Devore and that should keep the offenses honest,” said Hoekstra. “Jeremy Sims in the middle is a strong plugger with Colin Dumas (280 lbs.) able to hold the line. Our secondary is much improved from last week at Ed White.”

At Middleburg, coach Karl Smeltzer commented on his youth on the field on a hot Friday steamer, but liked his talent level to reverse last year’s disastrous encore to his playoff season two years ago.

“We have plenty of talented kids, but not a lot of seniors,” said Smeltzer, who will take his Broncos to a pads camp at Camp Blanding July 19-20. “Offensive linemen Colby Warner, Cole Leclair and Jesse Saunders will be strong on the offensive line; all near 300 pounds with Warner and Leclair just returning from a great skills camp at FSU.”

On Friday, Smeltzer and coaches Wayne Gallman, Chase Weiskopf and Alan Burnsed ran the troops through some light drills and set up sessions in preparation for some game-like scrimmages next week.

“I don’t like those 7-on-7s because most teams don’t show anything in those,” said Smeltzer. “It’s just a pass and catch. If we plan to run the ball down your throat, it’s kind of counterproductive for us.”

Smeltzer talked of his renewed strategy of being just a head coach this year and overseeing the coaching staff for fine tuning.

“I was coaching defense last year, but had a limited grasp of everything going on on offense,” said Smeltzer. “This year, I’m going to be a head coach and making minor adjustments through the coaching staff so we are all on the same page. I think it will improve the overall learning process for the young kids.”

Top senior Tyler Bryant is a college-sized athlete on both sides of the ball with Smeltzer liking him as a backfield presence more than at safety. Sophomore Jay Lane had a good spring game as wideout against Westside.

On defense, senior Noah Janda returns from a minor back ailment to return as a top tackler for the Broncos with Dylan Keller off the line as middle linebacker.

At quarterback, Joe Justino is slated to be the starter with the wily junior showing good field vision against Westside who chased the small-sized tosser around the pocket.

“If we can get him a few more seconds to set up and throw, he’ll make good decisions,” said Janda. “We have a good bunch of weapons to catch and run this year. We put it all together and we’ll be back in the playoffs.”

Also injured was wideout Kevin Littles with a minor leg injury on Friday.

Missing were transferred out brothers Andrew and Timmy Thomas, younger brothers of Bronco standout Sammie Smith of years ago. Both now play at Fleming Island High School.

Orange Park, in a Monday conditioning session, concentrated on weightlifting and some outdoor endurance with gigantic tires and sprint sets. The Raiders on hand included backs Alex Collier and Terrence Johnson plus linemen Silas Little, James Rhodes and Ben Elliott.

On the defensive side, defensive end Kendy Charles looked strong with Jacob Moore and David Araujo leading drills on both stations.


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