PORT ST. JOE — It’s not like Greg Jordan didn’t already have a good idea of the tradition of excellence for Port St. Joe athletics.
After all, he attempted for 15 years to beat the Tiger Sharks in football as the head coach at Wewahitchka and then Blountstown.
But a not-so-subtle reminder occurred when Jordan assembled his first St. Joe team for spring football practice after the stunning announcement that he was leaving the Tigers for the Tiger Sharks.
The team was minus about five of its players who were making a run at the state baseball title last May, a championship that Port St. Joe eventually captured.
Jordan also discovered that despite that great athletic legacy, the Tiger Sharks have some work to do this season to overcome rather small roster numbers and a schedule that includes only two Class 1A schools.
“Once I had decided that last year was going to be my last (in Blountstown) and I resigned, the next question was whether I would coach middle school football (there) or take another task of some sort,” Jordan said.
“Coach (John) Palmer reached out and we started talking, and St. Joe’s tradition is next to none. There’s only a few places I would have went to coach, and St. Joe is one of those places.”
Jordan said it’s difficult to project how things will work out in a new environment, but thus far he’s happy with the progress his players have made. He just wishes he had more of them.
“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.”
The quality includes returning quarterback Josh Butts, who rushed for 815 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed by 883 and 11 TDs. Jordan said his skill set mirrors Trent Peacock, who Jordan guided at Blountstown last season.
“Kendre Gant has had some Division I offers and will play outside linebacker and tight end,” Jordan said. “Khayyon Zaccaro (157 tackles) is a really good football player at linebacker and probably will play some 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.
“Hopefully by midway through the season defense will be our strong point,” Jordan said.
Jordan said the Tiger Sharks could be multiple at times on offense, but he’s never wavered from his belief that a staunch defense is the foremost priority.
“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 is similar to Peacock in that he 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.”
Jordan said that until the junior varsity season concludes the Tiger Sharks will suit a varsity of about 25 players. Thus the paramount avoidance of injuries, one of the critical issues every season in 1A.
Jordan said that he wasn’t able to bring any assistants with him from Blountstown to Port St. Joe, but did add 30-year Georgia prep coach Chuck Moore to the staff.
“I hope that the senior class supplies good leadership and good football players as well,” Jordan said. “The summer was a big adjustment with the workouts … the weight program was a little different for them.
“The kids that didn’t want to buy in aren’t with us anymore. Otherwise I thought the FCA camp this summer was a good springboard for us.”
Aug. 17: at Graceville (kickoff classic), 7 p.m.
Aug. 24: Wewahitchka 6:30 p.m.
Aug. 31: at Marianna, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: Bay, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Rutherford, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: North Florida Educational, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5: at Walton, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: South Walton, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 19: at Blountstown, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26: Arnold, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 2: at North Florida Christian 6:30 p.m.
(Region 2-1A, 8-4)
Marianna 7-6 OT
Autauga Academy 28-45
South Walton 37-0
North Florida Christian 14-7
Khayyon Zaccaro (sr. RB-LB)
Kendre Gant (sr. WR-LB)
Josh Butts (sr. QB-DB)
Bryce Thomas (sr. OL-DL)
Caleb Butts (sr. LB-RB)
Jarrett Browning (sr. OL-DL)
Jordan replaces John Palmer, who won state championships in two separate stints at Port St. Joe, but was forced to step down last season because of health concerns.