The area’s public schools finally are returning to the field as the football season begins this week.
The football season for the area’s public schools is finally here.
After waiting for approval from the FHSAA and Orange County Public Schools, public schools in the county are kicking off their seasons this week to the excitements of coaches, players and fans alike.
Because the starting dates for football vary, this year, the Observer will offer its 2020 Football Preview in two parts. We presented our area’s private-school programs in the Sept. 3 edition. This week, we present our preview of the new season for the area’s public and charter schools.
Head coach: Rodney Wells
2019 record: 9-3
Key returners: Ledger Hatch, Joe Joe Patti, Jaydan Taylor
Key losses: Nivon Holland, Shi Gaskin, Stephen Dix Jr.
Quick hit: Dr. Phillips battled its way through a tough 2019 season that resulted in the Panthers’ 12th consecutive district title. This season, the Panthers will have most of their key players on offense return in Ledger Hatch and Joe Joe Patti, while the defense will be missing pieces such as Shi Gaskin and Stephen Dix Jr., who both are playing college ball. Expect the Panthers to have another strong year during this shortened season.
Sept. 17 (Thursday) — @ Boone
Sept. 25 — @ Apopka
Oct. 2 — @ Windermere
Oct. 9 — Wekiva
Oct. 16 — @ Olympia
Oct. 29 — Oak Ridge
Nov. 6 — Bishop Moore
Head coach: Trent Hopper
2019 record: 7-3
Key returners: Noah Velazquez, Jaden Oyola, Jayden Colon
Key losses: Eli Post, Drew Birko, Jacob Worley
Quick hit: This season, the Eagles will be without a couple of key pieces from last year — including starting quarterback Jacob Worley. But the good news is head coach Trent Hopper has some serious talent coming back. Throw in a core group of juniors and players such as Jaden Oyola — who last year ran for a whopping 1,001 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore — and the Eagles are primed for a strong season this year.
Coach’s corner: “I hope we get all (games) in and hopefully a playoff, but it’s just cautious optimism. It’s got to be expected that at some point, something’s going to happen, and it’s all going to end. … But right now, we’re playing, and we’re going up to Jacksonville to play Eagle’s View on Friday — that’s the challenge in front of me right now.”
Sept. 11 — @ Ocala Christian (won 26-18)
Sept. 18 — @ Eagle’s View
Sept. 25 — Cornerstone Charter Academy
Oct. 2 — @ Saint Francis Catholic
Oct. 9 — Central Florida Christian Academy
Oct. 16 — @ First Academy-Leesburg
Oct. 23 — Oasis
Oct. 30 — St. Edward’s
Head coach: Aaron Sheppard
2019 record: 5-5
Key returners: Charles Pierre Jr., Zoren Tobe, Malik Harp
Key losses: Lovie Jenkins, Nick Wright, Dexter Rentz Jr.
Quick hit: It was an up-and-down 2019 season for Ocoee during which the Knights won and loss some hard-fought games. This season, the Knights start off with two back-to-back tough games against Apopka and Wekiva, and they’ll be doing it without some key pieces from last year — including the late Dexter Rentz Jr.
Sept. 17 (Thursday) — @ Apopka
Sept. 25 — Wekiva
Oct. 2 — Evans
Oct. 9 — @ Celebration
Oct. 16 — Lake Brantley
Oct. 23 — Lake Mary
Oct. 29 (Thursday) — @ West Orange
Nov. 6 — @ Freedom
Head coach: Travis Gabriel
2019 record: 4-6
Key returners: De’andre Robinson, Jordan Thomas, Victor Jones Jr.
Key losses: Bryant Casteel
Quick hit: This season’s edition of the Titans will have a couple of solid players returning, but after losing a ton of players to graduation and transfer, head coach Travis Gabriel only has two returning offensive starters and five returners on defense.
Coach’s corner: “I lost a lot of kids, but I just think these kids I have now, they have kind of formed a tight-knit bond. They work out together, they enjoy being around together, so I think that is going to build for this year and years to come.”
Sept. 25 — Gateway
Oct. 2 — @ Oak Ridge
Oct. 9 — @ University
Oct. 16 — Dr. Phillips
Oct. 23 — Boone
Oct. 30 — East Ridge
Nov. 6 — @ Winter Park
Note: Olympia’s opening game against Windermere was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the school. It will be rescheduled for a later time.
West Orange High
Head coach: Mike Granato
2019 record: 4-6
Key returners: Tyler Huff, Matthew McDoom, Jaden Floyd
Key losses: Jaylon Carlies, Julian Calvez, Tyler Jones
Quick hit: West Orange is under new leadership as first-year head coach Mike Granato takes over a program looking for some stability. Luckily for Granato, he has plenty of talent to work with on both sides of the ball, including players such as Matthew McDoom and Jaden Floyd. Although the running back position will be by committee at this point, Granato said, the quarterback spot will be given to Tyler Huff — who so far has impressed during practices.
Coach’s corner: “We feel good about where we are. I don’t think anyone is going to be where they want to be given the circumstances, but we have had a lot of good practices and great, great participation from our entire team. We’ve got a lot seniors who are going to be playing — and we have some guys playing both ways — so we like where we are on offense and we like where we are on defense.”
Sept. 17 (Thursday) — @ Evans (Canceled)
Sept. 25 — Boone
Oct. 2 — @ Lake Mary
Oct. 9 — Windermere
Oct. 16 — Apopka
Oct. 23 — @ Lake Brantley
Oct. 29 (Thursday) — Ocoee
Nov. 6 — Jones
Head coach: Robert Couch
2019 record: 1-9
Key returners: Matthew Richardson, Amer Amer, Stone Rivers
Key losses: Kevin Sullivan
Quick hit: Times at Windermere have been tough since the football team’s introduction in 2017; it picked up only three wins through its first three seasons. But now, former Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Robert Couch has taken the reins of the program and looks to steer it into a new era.
Coach’s corner: “We’ll go as far as our seniors take us, and hopefully, the young guys can step up and play. It’ll be a fun season — I just hope that we get to play it, and I hope these things don’t keep getting canceled on us.”
Sept. 25 — @ Timber Creek
Oct. 2 — Dr. Phillips
Oct. 9 — @ West Orange
Oct. 16 — @ East Ridge
Oct. 23 — Oak Ridge
Oct. 29 (Thursday) — @ Boone
Nov. 6 — Colonial
Note: Windermere’s opening game against Olympia was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak at Olympia. It will be rescheduled for a later time.