GAINESVILLE — After a summer full of workouts, the North Central Florida Media Day became a treat for a trio of players at each of three area schools.
The media day, which was held July 24 at the Florida High School Activities Association office, included Branford, Hamilton County and Lafayette among the 44 schools in attendance. It allowed media to assemble and grab information they needed for the upcoming season while also permitting coaches and players to receive additional publicity.
It also served as a way for coaches to honor the players that have developed into team leaders.
Hamilton County coach Richard Vester said the three Trojans — Jhebari Martin, Kane Miller and Tyler Whetstone — that accompanied him to the event were three of the four players that didn’t miss a workout or event the entire summer. The fourth had to work, making it easy for Vester since coaches were asked to bring three players.
“This is all about them,” Vester said of the media day. “It’s just a chance for these guys to get out and get a little PR and get in front of camera and then talk about their teammates and their team.
“It’s a chance for their teammates to see them do what we talk about.”
Lafayette coach Mark Beach also said he based his choice of which players to bring was based on those who had earned it through summer workouts. He also had a fourth player he wanted to bring, but Adam Perry was on vacation. That left him with Mark Crum, Hayden Hingson and his son, Jaxson Beach, a two-time All-State quarterback.
“I love him, what he’s about, what he does,” Beach said about choosing Hingson, before crediting Crum for helping make the Hornets’ spread offense so dangerous. “He’s the guy that I found out on our offense that makes that offense so special is that, and it’s so weird, you can’t shut one guy down in that offense. And if you try to get someone the ball, it doesn’t work. So it takes those role player guys to figure it out. He was the guy last year that got us in and out of some jams.
“And then Jaxson has earned it for the last two years and what he’s done.”
Tim Clark said he wished he could have brought Branford’s entire senior class. But limited to three, he chose Dakota Hamm, Colton Leibold and Brock Lewis. All three have been among the Bucs’ leaders during the offseason.
“They’ve played a lot of ball,” Clark said. “Good, coachable, high-character kids that will have a big impact on our team this year.
“Wish I could have brought all of my seniors. But I think those 3 would represent us well and will represent us well this fall.”
Leibold and Lewis, though, admitted to being nervous in the media day atmosphere, surrounded by other teams and media members.
That experience, though, is something Clark hopes pays off this fall.
“They’re in a little bubble,” he said. “Nobody else on campus. They don’t see anybody but their teammates and me on campus the entire summer.
“It’s a nice reminder that everybody else has been working too and they’re optimistic and they’re excited about this year too.”
The majority of the players said they enjoyed the experience. Nobody showed that more than probably Hamilton County’s Martin, whose personality was on display.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I never did it before, but it’s good coming down here and getting interviewed by a great group of guys. Getting to talk about our futures and our season and how we feel. It’s cool. It’s awesome.”
LHS coach Mark Beach also thought it was an awesome event for his players and his program, especially considering the rural nature of Lafayette County. Still, he added the Hornets’ tradition also means they deserve the recognition they receive.
“I talked it up and told them, what a neat experience this is and lets us be known because we are a little old one-light town in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “For people to give us love and take the time to talk to us.
“But, you now what, we’ve earned this. That program has earned it through the years. There’s been so many great players, baseball, basketball, football, so many great coaches. We’ve earned that right.”