High school football coaches entered a new and mysterious era this year.



High school football coaches entered a new and mysterious era this year.

A new playoff format, a weighting formula for wins and losses and the elimination of districts presented challenges in assembling fair and yet challenging schedules.

And, in the case of Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, any games within Class 1A.

The Tiger Sharks will have just two games in their classification during a 10-game home-heavy regular season, with just four roads games.

“It was very tough to schedule this year,” said Port St. Joe coach John Palmer, noting that with no district games, some schools have a challenge scheduling within their classification.

“We play two 1A teams, Madison County plays one. I don’t think (state power) Pahokee has any.”

To fill out the schedule, Palmer even had to reach into Alabama and a home game with a team that won the state independent school championship, after a 13-0 season, last year.

Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School, in contrast, will actually operate within a conference of eight schools, including Sneads, Cottondale, Tallahassee FAMU, Liberty County and Franklin County among others.

However, the school will have to travel to fill out the schedule.

Port St. Joe hosts Graceville in a Kickoff Classic to get fall action underway.

The annual Port St. Joe vs. Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School rivalry game to open the regular season will be contested on Gator Field Aug. 25.

The Tiger Sharks schedule is front-loaded with games against Bay and Rutherford out of Bay County and stout on the back-end with trips to South Walton and Panama City Beach Arnold sandwiched with home games against Blountstown and North Florida Christian in the final month.

For Wewahitchka, under first-year Coach Bobby Johns, there will be no Kickoff Classic just as the Gators did not play a spring jamboree.

Those games, Johns said, are good for experienced teams but maybe not so much for a young team learning a new system.

After opening with the visit from Port St. Joe, the Gators play out a five-home, five-road game schedule.

The Gators will literally travel from one end of the state to the other in September when they follow a trip to Christ’s Church Academy in Jacksonville with a road game against Jay.

Another challenging duet will come in October when the Gators make back-to-back trips to Liberty County and Cottondale.

How it all shakes out come postseason time, whether a team earns more points, and a playoff berth, going .500 against a strong schedule or undefeated against a weak schedule, remains a question coaches can’t answer.

“We just don’t know how it will work out,” Palmer said.