West Orange- and Southwest Orange-area teams are moving into summer conditioning to prepare for the 2022 season.
As the academic school year came to an end, West Orange and Southwest Orange football fans got a peek into the teams that will be taking the fields this fall.
After their original spring game date was rained out, the Horizon Hawks faced both the Cypress Creek Bears and University Cougars during their first Spring Jamboree Monday, May 23, at Horizon Stadium.
Building on their inaugural season in 2021, the Hawks showed some promise. They bested Cypress Creek 3-0 and then edged University 14-13 in the waning seconds of the game.
Like the other squads, the Hawks now will enter their summer conditioning program, which head coach Thomas Dennis said will be critical as Horizon enters its second season.
“I’ll just say that if we are healthy, we’re going to be pretty good,” he said.
LAKE BUENA VISTA
The Vipers fell against Space Coast High School 21-14 Thursday, May 19.
“We played our best game to date,” head football coach Joseph Rienzi said. “Coach (Clifton) Nichols and his players were tough, played with class, and it was a competitive football game. My hat goes off to him and his team, because they earned that win, for sure.”
The team will have to work hard during the summer and make some adjustments; a lot of the players are still learning the game.
“We are going to use the offseason to lift weight, condition and hopefully get some exposure for some of our soon-to-be seniors,” Rienzi said.
The school has a young squad, with a few players who will become seniors during the upcoming season. This will be the second season for the Vipers.
“We had about six freshmen on the field at any given time during varsity football games last year, and that was a great experience for those guys,” Rienzi said.
The team is looking out for their season rivals.
“I think Freedom has become a rival simply because we drew so many students from there,” Rienzi said. “Horizon, naturally, is sort of turning into that other rivalry game simply because of the fact that we opened together. I tend to think rivalries need some time to develop, but those two games have started to stand out.”
For the coming season, the team expects to build upon the foundation that was set during the first year.
“The kids work hard every day and know what it takes to improve,” Rienzi said. “I want kids to have fun, become better student-athletes and, hopefully, celebrate a few victories in the fall.”
The Olympia High football team played half a game against Boone High School, falling to the Braves 10-7 Thursday, May 19.
The team also played Oviedo High for half a game, losing 7-0 to the Lions.
“We are working, so everything is work in progress,” head football coach Travis Gabriel said.
The team has a young offense but a “more experienced defense,” Gabriel added.
The team will be working on the the players’ strength and conditioning while focusing on getting the most out of the summer workouts.
The Warriors defeated Bayside High 3-0 Thursday, May 19, but fell to Mainland High 14-0.
The defense had four turnovers. Alden Holley and Ayden Taylor both had an interception.
“The spring games are where we get to see where inefficiencies are, what things we get to improve,” head coach Geno Thompson said. “I feel like some things we did very well and some things need some improvement.”
The team began its weightlifting and conditioning training May 31.
“Summer is going to be very big, because we can definitely improve in a lot of areas and the biggest thing is being in the weight room and gain strength and muscle for durability,” Thompson said. “We have a very tough schedule this season; we’ll be playing some very good opponents.”
Windermere High football team played against Astronaut High School (Brevard County) Friday, May 13. The Wolverines fell against the War Eagles 10-0 after only two-and-one-half weeks of practice.
“I thought we flew around a bit, showed some physicality,” head football coach Riki Smith said. “A lot of young players stepped up; it was good to see.”
The Wolverines currently have a young team, so the offseason will be extremely important for them to be able to develop the young boys and turn them into football starters. Of the 22 starters, only two were seniors.
The team is in a district where they will be facing some of the toughest teams in the area — Dr. Phillips, West Orange, Olympia and Ocoee.
Smith has great expectations for the upcoming season.
“To play fast and physical, less thinking and more reacting,” he said. “Give maximum effort and play as hard as we can.”
THE FIRST ACADEMY
The First Academy football team defeated Masters High 43-21 Thursday, May 12.
Noah Nixon and Adryan Marayne each scored two touchdowns for the Royals, while Trey Newsome scored once. JR Millar led the defense with two interceptions.
“We had a very successful spring season,” head football coach Leroy Kinard said. “Our biggest goal was to introduce our new coaches to the team and to install our base offense and defense. The second goal is to create a culture that is successful and sustainable for years to come.”
The Royals participate in spring football every year; the team believes it’s a crucial part on establishing a foundation for the upcoming season.
“The big issue with us is team depth,” Kinard said. “Our goal is to add a few pieces in the offseason to help us make it through the season health-wise.”
Currently, the team is filled mostly with upperclassmen, but also it has a strong group of middle-schoolers.
The team is keeping an eye out for its usual rivals — Orlando Christian Preparatory School and Foundation Academy.
“They’ve had good teams the last couple years, so we’ll see how we stack up now that we are in the same district,” Kinard said.
As for expectations for the team come fall, one of the team’s goals is to make the payoff although with the new Metro and Suburban classifications there is a bit of uncertainty as how that is going to play out.
“The other expectation is always to build Godly men one brick at a time,” Kinard said. “I know that sounds ‘cliche,’ but it’s at the heart of everything we do.”
The Lions were expected to play their spring football game Saturday, May 21, but because of bad weather, the game was canceled.
However, football head coach Andre Walker has high expectations for the team as the upcoming season approaches.
“I feel really good about our team going into the summer as we come to a close to the spring football season,” he said.
The team is young, but it has shown a lot of potential so far.
“We have to improve on our physical strength and gain a better understanding of concepts,” Walker said. “This will come with experience.”
One of the biggest rivals the school is looking out for is Orlando Christian Preparatory School. Other schools on the Lions’ radar are The First Academy, Orangewood Christian and Trinity Christian.
“I expect us to go out and compete for a spot into the playoffs,” Walker said. “(These teams) will make it tough to make a playoff with a young group like ours, (but) we will work hard this offseason and hopefully be up for the task.”
The Lakers football team participates in spring football but does not play spring football games.
“I made that decision when I took over as the head coach last season,” head football coach Brian Simmons said. “My philosophy is that the spring is more about player development than it is about X’s and O’s. Obviously, we get into X’s and O’s, but 90% of our spring is about teaching the fundamentals of playing football.”
The team mostly focused on running the football through the spring season, and is working on improvements for the offense team.
With a good mix of upper- and underclassmen, the Lakers are instilling a sense of confidence in players.
“We will focus on the process of getting better every day — whether it is on the field, in the weight room or wherever else we are that day,” Simmons said. “The challenge for players is to master the ability to compete with themselves every single day; both physically and mentally.”
The Eagles participate in spring football but do not play a spring game.
“Simply because of numbers,” head football coach Trent Hopper said. “We realized years ago we could not attempt to play a spring game with the amount of eligible kids and stay safe.”
One of the strengths the team anticipates having for the upcoming season is senior leadership.
“Our team is going to be very young,” Hopper said. “But, fortunately for us, we have a solid upperclassman in every position group (who) can point them in the right direction.”
However, the team still has arduous work ahead of it; half of the roster has never played football before.
When it comes to rivals, the team has not been able to play its traditional rivals on the schedule.
“We look forward to creating some new rivalries that could save both schools in the future,” Hopper said. “Most of our opponents are from out of town.”
For the upcoming season the expectation is to leave the program better than how it was at the beginning.
“We as coaching staff have been very proud of the athletes’ ability to hold onto an 11-man program while all other schools in our situation are moving to eight-man,” Hopper said.
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