ORLANDO — Ocoee High head football coach Dale Salapa was not overly concerned with points on the scoreboard. He was more interested in making a point.
Essentially, Salapa wanted the Knights to view their recently concluded spring season as a learning experience on and off the field.
Ocoee went into last Thursday’s spring game in Orlando against Edgewater High with just a handful of returning contributors and others with limited or no varsity experience. Salapa’s staff is also undergoing changes, and a number of players who figure to contribute this fall were not in the lineup.
And while the rain may have held off in College Park, the host Eagles poured on the points during three quarters of varsity play for a 42-6 victory. But there were valuable lessons to be learned.
“Chuck Weatherbie gave the pre-game talk [Thursday] – he was a coach and played in the NFL – but we talked to our guys too and said here’s the deal: This isn’t Pop Warner. You’re not guaranteed six plays or 10 plays or whatever anymore, and things get a little intense on the sidelines now and again,” Salapa said. “You just could see with our guys that they’ve got to get through that deer-in-the-headlights thing, but I’m going to get my points across in the spring.”
Ocoee posted a 3-7 overall record last season as a Class 7A school, but the mark was deceiving considering there were six single-digit losses which featured a pair of overtime setbacks in district play. The Knights also graduated more than two dozen seniors from the 2013 varsity squad and that list included Georgia Tech signee Terrell Lewis, quarterbacks Bobby Lyons (who also played a key role in the secondary) and Jack Barr as well as Kevin Alce, Gene Jenkins, Castillo Mitchell and Germari Cosby among others.
Turning the page means working in some different players into the roster to complement the returning upperclassmen. Salapa also knows that developing a strong mental attitude – similar to the one that helped Ocoee’s weightlifting team chalk up a solid season during the spring – to successfully deal with adversity will be key.
Ocoee, which will again compete in Class 7A District 4 during the 2014 regular season with Wekiva, East Ridge, East River, Lake Howell, Oak Ridge and Winter Springs, fell behind 21-0 after one quarter to Edgewater. The Eagles struck for three touchdowns over 50 yards in distance before they threw a long TD pass during the opening minute of the second quarter for a 27-0 advantage.
Steven Hogan took the snaps at quarterback in Ocoee’s spread offense that utilized four wide receivers.
Hogan helped get the Knights on the scoreboard with 8:34 left in the first half when he scrambled out of the pocket and found Jemerh Cosby alone down the left sideline. Cosby made a nice adjustment to catch the ball behind the defense before rolling into the end zone.
Salapa plans to have a steady workload during the summer with appearances in 7-on-7 tournaments.
Ocoee will also compete on Mondays against Olympia and Evans in 7-on-7 play, Tuesdays in the West Orange passing league and Thursdays in the Central Florida Christian Academy passing league.
Ocoee plays Dr. Phillips High in its Kickoff Classic prior to the start of the 2014 regular season.
• The Florida High School Athletic Association will reportedly hold its eight football state championship games at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando through 2015. The FHSAA signed a two-year contract extension last week after the finals had been hosted by Orlando, Orange County Schools and the Central Florida Sports Commission since 2007. The 2014 FHSAA State Finals are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13.
• West Orange High’s opponent for its 2014 Kickoff Classic, Lake City-based Columbia High, enjoyed a successful spring game last month. The Tigers played at home and earned a 45-7 win over Fort White.
West Orange, which posted a 38-35 spring-game win over Timber Creek on May 23, travels to Columbia High on Aug. 22. The Warriors kick off the 2014 regular season on Aug. 29 at Boone High.