Local Sports

Home sweet home

After playing three of its first four games on the road, Avon Park will finally get a break in its schedule. The Red Devils have four straight home games coming up, with the home stand starting tonight at 7:30 against Class 3A Lakeland Christian. "We actually would've liked to have homecoming a little later in the year," Avon Park coach Wade Jackson said. "But because we have a handful of district games coming up, we didn't want to have homecoming against a district opponent." Sitting at 0-4 on the year, Jackson said the Devils are improving every day in practice. And even though the team fell last week at Cardinal Mooney, the Cougars' coach noted that the Devils were a formidable team. "Just by our attitude and determination, you couldn't tell that this is a winless team," Jackson said. "Even with all the rains, we had some great practices this week. That's very encouraging for the coaching staff."
"We're seeing much more improvement with the mental errors, too," Jackson added. "That's been very encouraging as well." While veteran running backs Mason Jahna and J.C. Cobb have been vital to the Devils' ground game this season, Jackson noted that limited reps to the underclassmen has hurt the team's offense. "The talent is there," Jackson said. "It's just a lack of experience. Sophomores like Lauer Lewis and Joe Nance are coming along. It's just a matter of getting comfortable in the offense." But even with the improvements from practice and a boost of energy from the homecoming festivities, facing an undefeated Lakeland Christian team won't be an easy task. The Vikings are averaging 30 points per game and have scored at least 20 points against every opponent they've faced this season. The Devils, meanwhile, have struggled on offense, getting shut out in their last two games. Even with the odds stacked against him, though, Jackson and his team aren't ones to put their heads down. "We're not going to complain or make excuses," he said. "We're just going to show up at 7:30 on Friday nigh and give it all we've got inside the lines for 48 minutes." "I just hope for the kids' sake we can get this thing turned around." There will be some bright spots for the Devils, though, no matter what the final score of the game is. Jackson knows that he has a handful of players nominated for homecoming king, and he said they couldn't be more thrilled. "The kids are excited - we're all excited," he said. "They have worked extremely hard and it's going to be a big night." Following tonight's game against Lakeland Christian, Avon Park will host Class 4A-District 6 rival Clewiston for the Devils' first district match up of the season. Avon Park follows that with a nondistrict match against Hardee, before a bye gives the Devils some reprieve before another big district showdown against LaBelle. bhoward@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5841 Where: Joe Franza Stadium When: Tonight at 7:30 Cost: $5