Local Sports

Spring football fever

Highlands County will be a hotbed for football action tonight, but Sebring will be the only team staying home. The Class 6A Blue Streaks welcome Class 7A Martin County to Firemen’s Field tonight at 7 p.m. for the annual spring game, and Sebring coach LaVarr Scott is anxious to see how his team has improved since its Blue-White scrimmage last Friday.

“We’re looking forward to playing Martin County and seeing how we stack up against them,” Scott said. “We feel good about what we have and we want the kids to come out, be fundamentally sound, fly around and have some fun.”

After a hot start last season, the Streaks stumbled late in the year to finish 6-4. But Sebring will get a solid test tonight against Martin County. The Tigers were 2-8 last year, but shared a common opponent with Sebring in playing Okeechobee. The Tigers beat the Brahmans 16-14.

Scott has tinkered with the offense so that it’s centered around the strengths of junior quarterback Jair Watson. During last Friday’s scrimmage, Watson quarterbacked both teams, scoring the game’s lone touchdown.

“Jair did some good things,” Scott said. “He has a strong arm, lots of potential and just needs to keep working to get better.”

The Streaks’ running game was effective as well. Tony Jenkins exploded for a 50-yard run while Duran Randolph showed sparks of potential.

Scott said the success of the running game will be critical to having a balanced offense.

“If we can run the ball effectively, it will open up our passing game and we have some real playmakers on the outside,” he said. “We want to be balanced on offense.”

Despite a few miscues on offense from the offensive line, Scott was impressed with the defensive effort. Sebring learned from its mistakes in the first half and adjusted in the final two quarters.

“Our defensive line is going to be pretty good and I liked the fact they put a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” Scott said. “We’re working on some different wrinkles on offense.”

Sebring vs. Martin County

Where: Firemen’s Field

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $6

Avon Park faces a stiff challenge in its spring game. The Red Devils play St. Petersburg Catholic on the road tonight, with kickoff set for 7 p.m. The Barons went 8-4 last season and made the Class 3A state playoffs.

In the midst of rebuilding, Class 4A Avon Park came on strong at the end of last season, winning its penultimate game against district rival Lake Placid. The Devils finished 1-9. With the loss of quarterback Alfred Brown, second-year head coach Wade Jackson is looking for someone to separate themselves in the race for the starting quarterback.

Right now it’s a toss-up between Kody Littles and Warren Buckner. Both passers got ample time under center during last week’s controlled scrimmage at Joe Franza Stadium, and Jackson plans to keep things that way against St. Pete Catholic.

“They’re both young, and we have to give them time to develop,” Jackson said. “Right now, I’m just looking for them to improve. 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.”

“Tonight they’ll both get the same amount of series to play and we’ll see where we’re at,” he added.

Where the Devils are most complete is at the running back position. Avon Park’s ground game is aided by the return of speedster Joe Nance, who is looking for a breakout junior campaign.

“We’ve got some talent, but we’re going to be a young team with a lot of sophomores,” Jackson said. “We have a plethora of quality running backs and we want to be balanced on offense and when we throw the ball we have a number of wide receivers who are playmakers.”

Avon Park at St. Petersburg Catholic

Where: Joe Paul Stadium

When: Tonight at 7

Cost: $5