Sam’s spring football stops: Ocoee High

Observer Sports Editor Sam Albuquerque is taking you behind the scenes of your favorite high school football team during the 2024 spring session.

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Now that the first impressions of Week One of the high school spring football season have been made and are out of the way, Week Two is all about finding out who is real, who is going to help your team win games and who can handle the grind of spring ball. 

For the second edition of the spring series, Orange Observer Sports Editor Sam Albuquerque continues his rounds during the 2024 spring football session to bring you all the best notes, tidbits and thoughts he picks up from visiting West Orange’s and Southwest Orange’s teams. 

The team featured in this edition of Sam’s spring football stops is Ocoee High.

More from Sam's spring football stops: The First Academy | Foundation Academy | Olympia High | West Orange High | Windermere High

Ocoee High

2023 record: 4-6

Spring game: 7 p.m. May 17 vs. Lake Buena Vista

Coach: Buck Gurley, second season

Key returners, additions: LB Michael McClenton, ATH Joshua Guerrier, ATH Kims Pierre and ATH Marvin Brown

In 2022, Ocoee reached the final four in the state championship playoffs. However, with a plethora of graduating seniors — including the Knights’ starting QB, top rusher, top receiver, top tackler and top defensive linemen — 2023 was a bit of regrouping season for first-year coach Buck Gurley. 

But in 2024, expect Gurley to have the Knights ready to cycle up and compete for championships again. 

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No. 1: Toughness

If I had to sum up what my perception of Ocoee football was after watching the Knights’ intra-squad scrimmage, one detail can capture it: Their quarterbacks weren’t wearing red jerseys during their full-speed scrimmage.

If you don’t know what that means, it’s simple: Usually, teams will have their quarterbacks wear red jerseys during any and all football activities as a symbol to defenders that says don’t hit them. 

At Ocoee, it seems, QBs are just like the rest of the football players. 

And football players get hit. 

That kind of toughness was evident throughout the team, from the lines to the outside skill positions, it felt like there was an innate aggression that exuded out of this group and, man, it was a whole lot of fun to watch. 

No. 2: Versatility will be key

One of the most entertaining, if not confusing, aspects of this scrimmage was simply keeping track of who was playing at which position. For example, rising senior Joshua Guerrier played wide receiver, quarterback, running back and defensive back during the scrimmage. That similar philosophy was true for most of Ocoee’s top non-linemen players.

“We want to give these kids an opportunity to get looked at many spots, so we can’t sit here and say, ‘Hey man, you just play this position,’” Gurley said. “If we don’t try them out any other spot, how are we going to know what they’re really good at? We have some guys (who) are already sound in their position. But if you look at Josh (Guerrier); he’s an athlete. You look at Mike (McClenton); he’s an athlete, right? So, we have a lot of athletic kids (who) can move, which is great.”

With this group of athletes, expect a lot of different players in different position groups each drive, a lot of two-way players and a whole lot of fun from some special talents. 

No. 3: Stars are who we thought they were

At Ocoee football, their star players are as advertised. 

LB Michael McClenton, the 2023-24 Orange Observer Football Player of the Year, is an absolute stud. He has a lightning-fast first step on the line of scrimmage, he is aggressive as heck and as strong as an ox. ATH Joshua Guerrier is as quick as can be, he’s a versatile athlete who showed he can play receiver, running back, corner and safety. Furthermore, he can throw the ball a bit, too, from the quarterback spot. 

It’s not just those two, though. Players such as Dariyon Gordon, Kims Pierre, Marvin Brown, Dylan Hoskins and more showed why they have been receiving attention from college scouts.

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

Email[email protected] 





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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