BRANFORD, Fla. — Junior Cress couldn’t wait for April 22.

The rising senior at Branford High had set a countdown date on his phone for the past few months in anticipation. On Monday, Cress and the Buccaneers took the field for their first spring practice.

“I was getting notifications every week. It’s been highly anticipated for me,” said Cress, a tight end/defensive end who has played on the varsity team since he was in ninth grade.

Added Cress: “Building unity as a team, that’s what the spring is meant for. Just getting in sync as a team before the summer starts. Get our dynamic down.”

As for things to look for this spring before Branford’s May 17 jamboree with Bell and Dixie County at DCHS, Buccaneers coach Tim Clark pointed to the addition of a lot of new players.

The Bucs were a senior-heavy team last season and will have to replace a lot of starters.

“We’re going to be young. We’re losing eight starters on defense and seven on offense, but our numbers are pretty good again and we have guys that know our offensive and defensive system well,” said Clark. “I’m excited. Biggest thing for us is identifying the pieces we have to replace.”

At Hamilton County High School, footballs were flying early in the morning as new Trojans head coach Richard Vester had his team on the field at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Like the Buccaneers, Hamilton County also lost a lot of senior starters from a year ago. But it was a good first day for HCHS players.

“The players were upbeat, eager to learn and gave good energy,” Vester said of Monday’s practice. “We put an emphasis on defense and special teams, so we spent the majority of practice working on fundaments in those areas. Our goal is to win each day, one day at a time, and I felt like we won today. Now we just have to come back and do it again. Consistency is key.”

After practice, Hamilton County ended the day with a cookout.

The Trojans will host Wildwood on May 17 for their spring game.

Spring storylines at Suwannee and Lafayette

Suwannee started spring practice on Tuesday. And like every other area team, the Bulldogs are going to have to replace a ton of senior starters from the 2018 season.

Suwannee’s defense, particularly, will be an area to watch after the graduation of a formidable defensive line as well as two linebackers and two starters in the secondary.

Suwannee hosts Ridgeview on May 17.

New Lafayette head coach Mark Beach says he plans to get spring ball started Thursday.

The Hornets will be without some key pieces for most of the spring with some of their best players competing on the baseball diamond.

Lafayette’s receiving corps will be a group to watch this season after graduating its top receivers. The Hornets will also be looking feature a new running back and two new linebackers.

Lafayette heads to Interlachen on May 23.

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Mike Jones is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press in North Florida.

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