Local Sports

Red Devils showing improvement

AVON PARK — The Avon Park football team has been preparing for the upcoming season and the Kickoff Classic on August 22. The team has been running drills and filling positions that were left open when players graduated. Several team leaders have stepped up and coach Wade Jackson is excited about his young team.

The team has several players who saw plenty of playing time last season, such as Josh Jones, Bryan Johnson and J.C. Cobb, but there will be plenty of new faces roaming the “We are young,” Jackson said. “We have some talent, some speed; overall I really like them. We are making some mistakes that young teams make but the players are learning and not making the same mistakes twice. That is a sign that things are going good. I like the energy and effort that has been given so far. I’m excited about what is going to happen.”

The team has been working hard, hitting the weight room, and working on the field nearly everyday. Adarius Council has stepped up and become a leader. Council is a sophomore this year and will be playing quarterback. He knows he is in charge of the offense and what is going on. He is a leader and that is what Jackson is looking for.

Jackson is hoping that more players will come forward as leaders. He is looking to see who will step up to be his defensive leader because he is in desperate need for one. Several of the players are leaders by example but the team needs a vocal leader. Coach Jackson said he needs everybody to step up and do their job.

“So far practices are going OK,” he said. “Last week we were able to go in the morning and it was a little bit cooler, today we went in the afternoon and it was a lot hotter and you could tell it obviously affected the players. The weather was wearing out the players. Overall I’ve been pleased with the practices; the energy and effort have been there. We are nowhere near where we need to be but we are getting there.”

The Red Devils lost a number of seniors from last year’s team and Jackson is looking for players such as Johnson and Jones to assume leadership roles and push the other players on the team.

“Those other kids, I guarantee they are going to bring it,” Jackson said. “They are not scared and they get after them. They just need game experience.”

As is often the case this early in practice, the offense is trying to find its rhythm, while the defense is farther along in the process.

Offense takes timing, everybody has to be in the right spot,” Jackson said. “The defense is ahead, but offense is getting there. In a game-time situation everything can change. We are having lots of positive things happen and we are getting better.”

The Red Devils have some solid offensive players in the backfield, such as

J.C. Cobb, Claudy Antione and Jaques Gordon. Cobb, who made the All-Highlands team last year after rushing for 425 yards, is more of a slasher, while Antione and Gordon are like freight trains.

Jackson is entering his second season as the Avon Park head coach.

“This year it has been a lot easier,” he said. “I have a great coaching staff. When they come out here I don’t have to worry about anything. They do their jobs and they are great coaches.”

Avon Park will continue to practice in preparation for its Kickoff Classic on Friday, Aug. 22 against Lakeland’s Tenoroc High School. Kick-off is 7:30 p.m. at Joe Franza Stadium.