Fall football schedules: Here are five can't miss 2024 high school football games

Most West, Southwest Orange high school football teams have released their 2024 schedules, here are Sports Editor Sam Albuquerque’s top five games to watch.

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Yes, it’s April, and the spring high school football season hasn’t even kicked off yet, so you may be asking yourself a simple question: “Why are we talking about games that aren’t happening until August?”

I’ll give you a simple answer: Because high school football in West Orange and Southwest Orange is yet again going to have one of the most interesting, talented and fun collection of teams in the state. 

Most of the area’s teams have released their schedules for the 2024 season, and I couldn’t wait to start daydreaming about my first full season of covering the area’s high school football teams for the Observer. 

I went through all the schedules that have been released and selected my top five games to watch for the 2024 season. 

Editor’s Note: Games are listed in order by date. 

The First Academy at Edgewater High, Aug. 30 

If you haven’t been paying attention to what The First Academy football program has been up to this summer, you’re probably scratching your head and wondering why this game is even on the list. Last season, the Royals only played three teams with winning records, finished 6-4 and missed the playoffs in Class 1M under new coach Jeff Conaway. 

The reason TFA is on this list is this: They’ve completely overhauled the entire program. Entering his second season in charge of Royals football, Conaway hired new offensive and defensive coordinators — as well as other assistant coaches. He brought in a heap of top-level talent through transfers, including multiple three- and four-star players, and released a schedule with a murderers’ row of top teams in Florida and the Southeast. 

This game against Edgewater, which finished last season 11-1, is the first game on its schedule against a local powerhouse program. And it should answer a burning question: How real is this TFA program about quickly establishing itself as an Orange County power?

Lake Mary High at Dr. Phillips High, Sept. 13 

If you saw the 2023 edition of this game, you already know why it’s on the list. Last season, the Panthers went on the road and fell to Lake Mary High by a whopping score of 76-60. 

That scoreline in and of itself is enough for me. 

What can I say? I’m a millennial football fan who thinks every current team in the world should watch the late-great Mike Leach’s press conferences as required assignments. 

Beyond that, this game will be used as a measuring stick for Dr. Phillips. If DP hangs with the Rams, they’re probably going to be a good to great playoff team. But if they blow the doors off Lake Mary, then there’s a chance the Panthers could be a state championship team. 

Dr. Phillips High at Olympia High, Sept. 27 

Not much needs to be said here. I’ll just go ahead and give you a second to jot down the date and venue for this game, so you can block out your schedule for this one.

Got it down? Cool, I’ll see you at Olympia High in late September. 

In all seriousness, this is one of the most fun rivalry games in the area. With the schools being located just four miles away from each other, not only do both fan bases always show up and show out to this game, but also they often have a connection with the opposition that adds a layer to the rivalry. Not to mention, if this game is anything like the 2023 pair of duels between the area’s best teams, fans will be treated to another gem of a game. 

Ocoee High at West Orange, Oct. 24

Despite down years in 2023 for both Ocoee and West Orange, the rivalry between the two still stands up as one of the best not just in the area but in all of Central Florida. 

Beyond the vaunted rivalry clash for their game’s trophy, “The Shield,” the two teams — regardless of record — always have a heap of talented playmakers on either roster that are often worth the price of admissions themselves.

Windermere High at Horizon High, Nov. 1

There was only one difference in the third iteration of the infant-stage rivalry game we call the Battle of the Groves. That was when Horizon got to take home the new trophy — the Smudge Pot — for the first time after beating Windermere and extending its rivalry-long win streak to three wins out of three. 

Despite the Hawks’ dominance over the course of the rivalry, the differences between the two teams seem to be evening out. Part of this comes because of the unprecedented coaching stability in the Wolverines program. For the first time since Windermere took the field in 2017, it will have the same football coach for a third season in a row.

Riki Smith, formerly an assistant under Rodney Wells at DP, has begun to build a solid foundation for the program, and as a whole, Wolverine football has shown signs of promise both on-and-off the field; like the brand-new on-campus football stadium lined up to be completed later this year. 

Honorable mentions
  • Ocoee High at Apopka High, Aug. 23
  • Lake Buena Vista High at Windermere High, Sept. 27
  • Olympia High at West Orange High, Oct. 18
  • Foundation Academy at The First Academy, Oct. 25
  • West Orange at Dr. Phillips High, Nov. 11

Sam Albuquerque is the Sports Editor for the Orange Observer. Please contact him with story ideas, results and statistics.

 Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @SamBAlbuquerque

Instagram: @OrangeObserverSam



Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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