PORT ST. JOE — John Palmer is no typical first-year coach at Port St. Joe.
That makes sense because it isn’t really his first year in charge of the Tiger Sharks’ football program.
Palmer coached PSJ to a 57-27 record over seven years, including a state championship in 2005, before leaving to take over coaching duties at Hernando in 2008. Since vacating that post, Palmer served as a volunteer assistant for previous PSJ coach Chuck Gannon the past two years before he was named Gannon’s successor in January.
“Luckily I’m familiar with Chuck and the staff and everybody here,” Palmer said. “Most of the coaches coached with me before when was here. Getting acclimated to the coaching staff is not as pronounced as it would be for somebody coming into a new situation.
“Getting to know the players, it’s the same as going in anywhere else. But having known a lot of them when they were younger, that has made the transition a lot easier. I’m fortunate in those areas.”
The Tiger Sharks staked a District 4-1A title last year, and Palmer did not enter his post expecting or desiring to overhaul the coaching staff and the program’s philosophy on offense and defense.
“Our base offense is out of the Wing-T we ran here before, and we’ve added a couple wrinkles to it,” Palmer said. “It’s not a huge, total revamping of offense or defense. The packages remained the same. We’ve just added a couple packages that fit the personnel.”
Palmer said the Tiger Sharks’ success on offense will be predicated on their ability to block up front. Palmer mentioned his five offensive linemen (Riley Burke, Clay Raffield, Marcel Johnson, Umstead Sanders and Will Ramsey) and tight end (Marquez Johnson) by name and another half-dozen players who will tote the football.
Palmer said he sees a lot of parity in Class 1A both in the region and the state, and he credited the FHSAA for creating the classification for rural-based public schools. That parity has made offseason work in the weight room even more important, however.
“We’re not the biggest team,” Palmer said, “but hopefully it translates into being a well-conditioned team.”
Palmer wants to see consistent improvement throughout the season. That may not always result in victories against the bigger, deeper teams on PSJ’s schedule, which includes two Class 5A schools (Bay and Arnold) and a Class 2A opponent (Florida A&M).
“I don’t think about wins and losses,” Palmer said. “We’ve got to improve each week in terms of execution and level of play. If we do that, we have a chance to be district champions. That’s our first goal: To go out there and prepare well enough to have a chance to win the district.”
PORT ST. JOE TIGER SHARKS
2013: 8-4 (3-0 District 4-1A)
Head coach: John Palmer, first year
Starters returning: 6/5
Aug. 29 Wewahitchka 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 5 at Bay 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Bozeman 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 Jefferson County 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 Chipley 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Franklin County 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 Florida A&M 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 at West Gadsden 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Liberty County 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 7 Arnold 6:30 p.m.
at Wewahitchka 45-20
at Jefferson County 38-6
at Chipley 16-28
Franklin County 49-6
at Florida A&M 21-12
West Gadsden 17-3
Liberty County 24-7
at Arnold 0-38
South Walton 45-21
at Blountstown 0-34
Standouts: Riley Burke (jr. OL/DL), Clay Raffield (jr. OL/DL), Marcel Johnson (jr. OL/DL), Umstead Sanders (jr. OL/DL), Will Ramsey (jr. OL/DL), Marquez Johnson (sr. TE), Jarkeice Davis (sr. RB), Cole Cryderman (sr. RB), Aaron Paul (so. RB), Jak Riley (sr. RB), Carter Thacker (sr. RB), T.J. Williams (jr. QB).