Palatka football followers who missed out on last season’s once-beaten junior varsity can start getting acquainted tonight at 7.
That’s when the Panthers host Alachua Santa Fe in a spring game in which many ex-jayvees, mostly rising sophomores, are stepping into prominent roles.
One such player, Demontae Ashley, joins Abrie Williams, in the battle to replace two-time, all-county quarterback James Campbell, but that’s only scratching the surface.
Center Austin Keel is the only returning offensive lineman who has been with the team the entire spring, though tackle Jacob Burney is back from injury. The other tackle is newcomer Jacob Daugherty and the guards, Jordan Miller and Terrenza Wiggins, have significant roles on the defense line.
“We’ve got some work to do up front, making sure the assignments are right and the technique is there,” said third-year head coach Bobby Humphries.
The defense is much the same.
“Again, depth up front is a concern. Aside from a few guys, it’ll be 10th-graders,” Humphries said. “None of our inside linebackers or outside linebackers have any varsity time on defense except K.D. Poole.”
Poole, Keyshawn Hughes and Deonte Collins are ticketed for most of the work at outside linebacker with Laronke Sutton and David Williams inside. Kedrick Davis, a fourth-year varsity player who worked his way into the linebacking corps last year, is one of three potential difference makers who won’t play tonight, the others being Tevel Adams and free safety-receiver Jayrin Johnson.
Miller and Bryan Smith are the starting defensive tackles, backed by Dantonio Williams. Wiggins and all-county Latavion Simmons will start at end with Clay Beck due for significant time.
Cornerback Chamar Dumas and free safety Tyamos Martin return to the secondary with Jerich Givens moving from outside linebacker to corner. Landon Perry is also working at safety.
The scheme of Palatka’s 4-4 defense has changed little from last year. The offense will incorporate more elements of the spread than were seen at the start of the 2016 season.
A big-time playmaker returns in elusive third-year tailback Markel Rasher, a two-time all-county pick who received serious all-state consideration as junior. He’ll start along with Smith at fullback.
Humphries’ spread employs “two and a half” linebackers, the “half” being Sutton or Hughes as a slotback. Dumas and all-county Treyvon Williams offer experience as well as a good burst at wide receiver. Steven Winston and Dale Green are in the mix, too.
“We’ve gone from being primarily a triple option to a spread,” Humphries said. “The quarterbacks are going to split time. I haven’t talked with coach (Randell) Owens (offensive coordinator) about the specific plan.”
While there will be no live special teams play, but tonight figures to be important for placekicker prospects Hughes and Colby Mikell.
Clearly, much remains to be seen, but it’s not like the Panthers haven’t put in the work since April 24.
“It’s been hot, no rain. You can usually count on a spring practice to be rained out three or four times. But it’s been good,” Humphries said. “We’ve had a lot of ninth-graders who have been getting looks because of injuries or whatnot. In the long run, that’s going to help us.”