Scan the rosters of the 2019 Wewahitchka and Port St. Joe high school football teams and a commonality leaps off the page.
These are two young, inexperienced football teams, with underclassmen, ninth-graders, aplenty on both squads.
The other commonality is that the county rivals will meet 6:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. CT) Friday at Gator Field in a Kickoff Classic.
The game was moved up due to uncertainty whether full lighting would be available by the day of the game.
Back-up lights are in waiting, but the coaches did not want to rely on those to fully illuminate the field.
To account for the earlier, and hotter, starting time, and to minimize the potential for injury on lean rosters, the two quarters of the second half will likely be shortened.
“Nobody needs to get hurt before the first regular season game,” said Wewahitchka coach Bobby Johns.
The two teams are rebuilding, though Johns noted that in Port St. Joe that tends to be reloading.
The Tiger Sharks lost two dozen seniors and at 20 of the 22 offensive and defensive positions will field a player other than the one who started last August.
One quarterback is a transfer, another just two years removed from lighting up the Gene Raffield youth league.
“We have a bunch of young kids who don’t have much experience,” said Port St. Joe coach Greg Jordan.
Fall practice has focused on teaching, Jordan said, the results of which will begin to show Friday as Port St. Joe competes against different uniforms.
That has rendered a different feel to camp compared to last fall when Jordan was in his first year at Port St. Joe with a senior-laden roster.
And, Jordan added, teaching is the part of coaching he most relishes.
“This has been a fun group of kids to coach,” Jordan said. “We will have a foundation (after Friday) to build from there.
“We want to let the kids play, get some film and not get anybody hurt.”
For Johns, fall camp was turned upside down last week when his quarterback, two-year starter Creed Pariera, and his family moved to the Pacific Northwest as part of his father’s job.
“We knew there was always a chance and if it had happened in December I would have had time to plan,” Johns said. “We just don’t talk about it. We just have to find our way around it.
“Our season won’t be won or lost on Friday night.”
In fact, that this matchup of county rivals is a Kickoff Classic, instead of the opening game of the regular season, likely benefits two extremely young teams.
“This is a chance to judge where we are,” Johns said, and better in what amounts to an exhibition instead of starting the season at a deficit on the record side.
Another benefit is that that neither team is deep in any sense of the word, suiting up roughly two dozen players.
The lack of depth is a particular impediment to the Gators who are unable to facilitate anything resembling live game action in practice.
“We are not able to get anything like that in practice,” Johns said. “This gives us a chance to play at game speed and see where we are at.
“I like our kids. I like our team. We are just young and inexperienced.”
After Friday’s contest, the county teams will venture into schedules as part of a Panhandle Football Conference.
That schedule will culminate after eight weeks with a three-week conference playoff system leading to the Florida High School Athletics Association playoffs.