Local Sports

Playing with a passion

— The first regular-season game of 2014 is still more than three months away. But Friday afternoon at Joe Franza Stadium, the Red Devils were treating their controlled scrimmage like a critical district contest.

“I saw a lot of good things out here today,” said Avon Park football coach Wade Jackson. “When I took over this program two things I wanted to instill were attitude and effort — and that was given by everybody.”

Jackson, now in his second year as the Red Devils head coach, said the first hurdle on the path to being a great football player is giving 100 percent dedication to your craft.

“Everybody hustled and everybody got after it,” Jackson said. “If you give effort, you can correct mistakes. And that’s what we’ve been looking for.”

The Red Devils have been experimenting with the passing game. There’s a handful of players jostling for the starting quarterback role, and Friday afternoon Kody Littles and Warren Buckner each got ample opportunity to direct the offense.

“They’re both young, and we have to give them time to develop,” Jackson said. “That’s the thing we have to remember most as coaches. Sometimes we want things to happen instantly. But I saw some good things from both of them today.”

The Red Devils travel to St. Petersburg Catholic to face the Barons in their spring game on Friday. Jackson said he plans on giving both quarterbacks an equal amount of snaps.

“Next week they’ll both get the same amount of series to play and we’ll see where we’re at,” he said. “And over the summer we’ll see where that goes.”

Jackson added it’s too early to make a final decision on who the starter will be.

“Right now, I’m just looking for them to improve,” Jackson said. “They both have different strengths. And they both have give good effort and they try to get better every time. That’s what makes it a hard decision to make, but it’s a problem I’m glad to have.”

While the running game suffered a devastating blow with the loss of Mason Jahna, who graduated this year, Joe Nance made his illustrious return to the gridiron. The junior spent much of Friday’s scrimmage carrying throngs of defenders down field. The Red Devils also return a solid core of wide receivers.

“We have a plethora of quality running backs,” Jackson said. “We want to be balanced on offense and when we throw the ball we have a number of wide receivers who are playmakers.”

More than anything, though, Jackson and his team are eager to take on another team.

“Basically we just wanted to put the guys in a game-type situation today,” Jackson said. “But we’ve been getting guys into the weight room and I’m excited to see what we’re going to do against guys of similar skill level and caliber. But it’s getting boring being out here against one another — we’re excited to finally see another jersey sitting on the other side of the ball.”