Royals ready to do battle with local rival

The First Academy is 5-3, as are the Foundation Academy Lions. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday.

The First Academy has found success under new head coach Jeff Conaway.
The First Academy has found success under new head coach Jeff Conaway.
Courtesy photo
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It’s one of the biggest rivalries in all of West Orange.

Every year, both Foundation Academy and The First Academy have this game circled on their respective schedules. And this year, with both teams sitting at 5-3, this district tilt comes with some extra incentive — a spot in the playoffs.

The Lions and the Royals will meet for the final district game of the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at Foundation.

The First Academy hosted Foundation Academy last year, and the Royals made the most of the home-field advantage to get a 20-7 win against the Lions. This year however, Foundation will host TFA.  And like the Lions, the Royals also are 5-3 overall and 0-1 Class 1M, District 2.

“We’re going to treat it just like every other game,” TFA head football coach Jeff Conaway said. “But anytime we put on our Royals’ gear, the expectation is that we are going to go play fast, physical-focused football to the best of our ability. This game is no different.” 

Conaway arrived at TFA from Arkansas right before the beginning of the 2023-24 prep football season. He brought with him a new playbook and a different mentality. 

“We have been quick learners,” he said. “I know when we talked in the summer, we were implementing a new offense, and here we are, Week 8, and we have shown that we can execute a new offense. We are executing a lot of new schemes and features on defense, and so, it’s very new. But, for the most part, I’ve been very proud of how they’ve received the information, how they’ve acknowledged their responsibilities.” 

In addition to a new offense, the Royals also have implemented Conaway’s organization and standard. 

“I feel like we practice a lot harder now,” sophomore safety Jackson Jones said. “Last year, nobody had an end goal, and I feel like we were just playing to play football. But now, I feel we have a standard that we are trying to reach, and we are trying to excel to be the best. … We are much more organized this year. We wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m., every week (Conaway) sends out the exact schedule by the minute, and if we are not on that schedule, there is some sort of discipline. We are trying to be exact in everything that we do, and the details are more important here.” 

Despite coming into Florida football for the first time, Conaway already has learned new policies, protocols and procedures, and he is excited to continue teaching the Royals the game they all love. 

“(Football) is about who can get their players to play as fast and as physical and as focused as possible,” he said. “There have been games where we’ve done that well; there have been games where we’ve really struggled with that. But it is a process of learning, and I think every day, every week, month, season, year — we are going to get better at it.” 

The Royals are grateful for a season that has brought them many learning opportunities that have helped them grow.

“I would summarize this season as a challenge — a learning season for everybody involved,” Conaway said. “A season of great progress and a future season of great rewards. That would be awesome if it came this year, but it may not. But, the rewards are coming.”



Andrea Mujica

Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.

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