West Orange football deals with lack of turf field, flocks of recruiters during spring camp
| 5:30 p.m. May 27, 2015
WINTER GARDEN — It’s May 21, a Thursday, and the day before the West Orange football team will play its blue-versus-orange scrimmage game.
The scrimmage the next day took place at Walker Field, in Winter Garden, home of the West Orange Wildcats Pop Warner program. The Warriors’ spring game, which comes a week after the scrimmage, will be Friday in Gainesville after originally being scheduled as a home game.
This particular practice is on an open field near the school’s ninth-grade center, where the band usually practices. The team moved some of its practices there after it beat up its other practice field beyond usability.
It has been an unusual spring camp for West Orange in the months since the synthetic turf playing surface at Raymond Screws Field was deemed unplayable.
The team’s practice field, which has predominately been used for the junior varsity team and defensive drills in recent years, has housed the entire program for the first time in nearly a decade.
“The spacing, the environment (on the turf field) — it’s just a game environment,” head coach Bob Head said. “It was a little bit of a setback, but we used it as (telling the players), ‘We’ve got to go the tough road.’ … We tried to turn it into a positive. But I felt (the difference) a little bit the first week.”
Now, though, with the spring game set for this week and the news that the school is within $50,000 of having what it needs to pay for a replacement turf field in cash, the vibe is back to being a positive one for the Warriors.
“At first it was a little iffy,” rising senior wide receiver Eddie McDoom said. “Throughout the weeks, everybody just bought in and said, ‘We just have to make it work.’”
Of course, it probably helps that spring sessions for West Orange have turned into an opportunity for college coaches to see and be seen. The Warriors have had visits from college assistants looking to scout players nearly every day, and their presence on the sidelines adds to the atmosphere during practice.
“We know the coaches are watching, so we know we have to put work in,” said Jacquez Federick, a rising senior defensive back for the Warriors. “Even if they’re not looking, we still have to put work in.”
Federick has been fielding interest from a number of schools — along with several other Warriors — but undoubtedly, the buzz in spring camp has largely been directed at McDoom and rising senior quarterback Woody Barrett. The two have fielded offers from a “who’s who” of college programs including Auburn and Ohio State, and thanks to their recruiting buzz, other players have gotten looks from high-profile programs, as well.
“Michigan State was out here, and they saw (wide receiver Naquan Reynolds), and he played well, so I was pretty excited for him,” McDoom said. “Any time a coach comes out here to see me or another player, it’s great (for the program).”
Schematically, Head said the duo of Barrett and McDoom has improved during the spring because the two standout players continue to become more familiar with one another.
“Their chemistry has been awesome,” Head said. “Woody does not even hesitate — he looks for Eddie. And Eddie — even when he’s covered, he’s open.”
Defensively, the Warriors are returning seven starters who played a significant role a season ago, chief among them being Federick who, despite standing just 5-foot-8, is considered the leader of the bunch.
“Our defense, overall, we’ve got seven returns, and they were all great contributors (in 2014),” Head said. “Jacquez is one of the smallest guys on our team, but he’s the most explosive. … He’s a tough kid in a small package.”
West Orange will wrap up the spring on Friday at Gainesville High School. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.