Tropical storm cancels games throughout county and dampens spirits at Cambridge, Newsome.
TAMPA - Frank Mabry sat at the desk in his tiny office tucked between the Cambridge School's gym and kitchen.
From his left came the sounds of the Lancer band as it warmed up on a stage at the end of the basketball court in anticipation of the pep rally scheduled to start in a few minutes.
Over his right shoulder was a computer screen repeatedly running the radar image of Tropical Storm Henri.
It was the worst definition of a rock and a hard place Mabry could imagine because at any moment his phone was going to ring and the final decision as to Cambridge's first football game would be made. Then he'd get the "honor" of announcing it to a gym full of students.
The call finally came and Cambridge joined nearly every other county school when it was determined the Lancers' game against Calvary Christian would be postponed. The game has not been rescheduled and most likely won't be made up.
"It's very disappointing," defensive end Trey Crandell said. "I've been nervous all day but I was all psyched up for it."
Crandell wasn't the only one crushed by the cancellation.
Mabry described himself as a "little kid waiting for Christmas all week," a mood which seemed to sum up the entire school's feelings. Students wore T-shirts printed especially for the first game and a tailgate barbecue was scheduled.
Instead Cambridge will begin its football history Friday at Temple Heights.
The Lancers weren't the only ones looking forward to a first night.
Newsome was going to play its inaugural game at Alonso and Freedom had a first of its own in the works - its first home game. Though that, like the eyes of athletic directors and coaches everywhere, was in the air too.
As opening day approached, school officials weren't sure if the stadium would be finished in time.
The press box, which was needed to plug a gaping hole in the bleachers, was somewhere between Mississippi and Alabama by Tuesday.
That was the least of the problems facing Franklin Oliver, Freedom's athletic director and assistant principal. The goal posts, or at least the goose necks supporting the posts, were missing. The scoreboard still needed to be installed. And the lights didn't have any power.
By Thursday, officials had found the goose necks and the scoreboard was plugged in. The press box had arrived and a generator would power the lights. The concession stand wouldn't be ready, but Pepsi trucks would be used instead.
"It'll look like a construction site, but at least it will be ready," Oliver said Thursday.
Then came the call.
Friday morning North Port called to say it had canceled the 125-mile trip north because of the tropical storm. An hour later, the school district canceled all the games anyway.
Oliver said the students took it well. The pep rally was held anyway, and students screamed in support of the Patriots.
"We're disappointed, but we're still excited," said sophomore quarterback Matt Kipp. "The home field will help, even if we do have to wait. We already know this season will be a better one than last year."
Cambridge followed in the footsteps of Newsome, Freedom and all the other Hillsborough public schools, whose games were postponed until Monday at 7 p.m. Hillsborough at Armwood is the exception and will kick off at 6:15.
All public school volleyball matches and cross-country meets will be made up at a time to be determined by the schools involved and the City Relays will be held Sept.13.
Jesuit's game against Jacksonville Bolles was canceled and won't be made up. That leaves Jesuit with an eight-game season and no games until Sept.19.
"We'll be healthy and know our assignments but we're going to be real tired of looking at each other," Jesuit coach Bill Schmitz said. "That's going to get old real quick."T. Heights wins opener
Temple Heights, the only county team to take the field Friday, defeated Haines City Landmark Christian 12-6. The Eagles (1-0) host Cambridge next week in the Lancers' first game.
- Times staff writer Michael Van Sickler contributed to this report.RESCHEDULED GAMES
Robinson at Middleton, 7
Hillsborough at Armwood, 6:15
North Port at Freedom, 7
Blake at Jefferson, 7
East Bay at Wharton, 7
Brandon at Chamberlain, 7
Newsome at Alonso, 7
Gaither at Bloomingdale, 7
Plant at Durant, 7
Plant City at King, 7
Leto at Sickles, 7
Tampa Bay Tech at Riverview, 7
Tampa Catholic at Berkeley Prep, 6NO MAKEUP DATE SET
Calvary Christian at Cambridge
Jacksonville Bolles at Jesuit