Technically, it is still preseason, but both high school football teams will be on the road and in action Friday night.
The Port St. Joe Tiger Sharks travel to Graceville for a jamboree and the Wewahitchka Gators head to Bay County and Bozeman for another jamboree.
Both are warm-ups, in every way given the current temperatures, for the season opener Aug. 24 which pits the county rivals against each other at Port St. Joe’s Shark Stadium.
The Gators enter the second season of the Coach Bobby Johns era, seeking build on the foundation set in 2017.
Wewahitchka is more experienced, with 17 seniors, bigger, stronger and more physically prepared after a productive summer of workouts.
The offensive and defensive lines are the most experienced positions and the Gators are likely to go as far as the lines take them.
Johns said his team has traveled “about 100 miles” compared to the beginning of last season, “physically (we are) way ahead.”
After making the midseason switch last year from the no-huddle, the Gators will stick with the option offensively and the 3-5 defense that best fits the personnel.
“We’ve had seven games” with the new offense, “and a full spring,” Johns said. “We’re doing a lot more football stuff. We have a lot more under our belt.”
The Gators will rely considerably on production from 6-foot-4, 222 pound fullback-linebacker Tyreek Thomas and will have six two-way starters as well as more depth.
Port St. Joe begins the Greg Jordan era, after the coach left Blountstown following a 2017 campaign that had the Tigers reaching the state Class 1A title game.
Jordan replaces John Palmer who is now an administrator at the school.
The key will be overcoming rather small roster numbers and a schedule that includes only two Class 1A schools.
“What worries me the most is our schedule,” Jordan said. “The only 1A teams on our schedule are Wewa and Blountstown. The rest are 4A and 5A. Long term it’s unsustainable for success.
“We have some quality, just not a lot of quantity right now. We can’t have kids get hurt for long periods of time and still be successful.”
Returning is quarterback Josh Butts, who rushed for 815 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed by 883 and 11 TDs.
Kendre Gant has had some Division I offers and will play outside linebacker and tight end and Khayyon Zaccaro (157 tackles) will man the inside linebacker spot and play some at fullback.
Caleb Butts will contribute at linebacker and running back and Bryce Thomas and Jarrett Browning are among the top linemen. Cameron Harmon had 14 receptions for 277 yards, second to Gant who hauled in 19-434 and 6 TDs.
“I think we’ll run some Wing-T stuff and probably tailor it to the type of backs and quarterbacks we have,” Jordan said. “Butts can run the ball a little bit. We’ll do a little bit of shotgun, but my philosophy is to rotate them offensively and rest them on offense.”
The roster, at least until after the junior varsity season is over, is just 25 deep.
“I hope that the senior class supplies good leadership and good football players as well,” Jordan said.