Different takes on district shuffle
By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
BROOKSVILLE -- Those Nature Coast Tech football jackets this fall won't carry any varsity letters.
Contrary to information on a link on the Florida High School Activities Association web site announcing 2003-2005 district assignments, the new Hernando County school scheduled to open in August will not field a varsity football team in its first season.
"We'll most likely remain JV for two years," NCT principal Tizzy Schoelles said. "Most programs are going to want to take a two-year development path."
Nature Coast was listed with 27 other FHSAA members the organization said had elected to field varsity squads but participate as independents, and not part of the State Series, next season.
Schoelles said she informed the FHSAA of the school's intention regarding varsity play in membership documents mailed in December. Fixing the problem is a clerical matter.
FHSAA athletic director Cecelia S. Jackson said the mix-up, if it was NCT's error, can be corrected with one form. Although NCT does not have a district assignment, it could receive one and become a varsity opponent if it so chose before the 2004-2005 season.
"That remains to be seen," NCT athletic director Joy Greene said. "We've talked about both scenarios, and we don't know what will happen."
Two of the most recent high schools to open in the area have taken different approaches to attain success in football.
Pasco County's Wesley Chapel opened in 1999 with a varsity program, and went 7-13 the first two seasons before reaching the playoffs the last two.
Mitchell, also in Pasco, opened with junior varsity in 2000, switched to varsity in 2001, and reached the playoffs for the first time this season.
Schoelles said she was in preliminary stages of setting up searches for coaches and currently is interviewing teachers. Some coach hires, she said, could be made in February.
NCT will acquire some of its future athletes Jan. 15, when a computerized lottery will be held to fill its enrollment of about 1,200.
Schoelles said her most recent figures indicated that 742 had applied for 460 incoming freshman slots, more than 460 for 400 sophomore slots, plus 200 juniors and 72 seniors had entered the lottery.
ASSIGNMENTS: Central has been parcelled with Springstead into Class 4A, District 6, with Clermont East Ridge and Leesburg. Hernando has been grouped into 3A-8 with Citrus, Crystal River, Lecanto and Groveland South Lake.
"Normally they change our district every two years and we kind flop south with the Pasco schools or go North with Citrus," Hernando coach Bill Browning said.
"South Lake is the unknown because they're coming down to 3A. Other than that, it looks like a competitive district," he said.
Central coach John Wilkinson was generally pleased with his assignment though surprised the FHSAA dissolved its former closely-packed district, which contained the Bears and Land O'Lakes, Mitchell, Ridgewood, River Ridge and Springstead.
"I'm satisfied with it," Wilkinson said. "All four teams in there seem pretty competitive."
Each county school has more space to fill on its schedule because all have been shuffled into smaller districts.
Hernando has four slots to fill, while Central and Springstead need three opponents each beyond district and conference schedules.
That's not necessarily an easy task, as evidenced by Central's nine-game schedule the past two seasons. But a Pasco County scheduling meeting slated for Monday will help determine who is available for the Hernando schools.
Browning expressed a desire to keep travel to a minimum, especially since Groveland South Lake has been added to his district.
He also would like to continue the long-standing rivalry with Pasco High.
The flavor of Central's schedule likely will remain similar to recent seasons, with the addition of a Week 8 date with South Lake and, Wilkinson hopes, a trip to the Space Coast, where he played and began his coaching career.
"I'd love to play over there," Wilkinson said. "Several of our kids went to see the (Class 4A, Region 2 final) Palm Bay-Land O'Lakes game and just said, 'Whoa.'
"They need to understand that there are other schools out there and people play other types of football," he said. "We want to get out of Hernando, Pasco, Citrus."
The main obstacle to the trip is a new mandate among Brevard County schools requiring them to play each intra-county opponent.
Trip or not, a full schedule is a certainty, Wilkinson said.
The Bears would have had a chance to earn a playoff spot, although they finished 3-6, last season by winning an extra game.
Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 1407. Send e-mail to email@example.com .
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