After four weeks of practice, area football teams will get to showcase their skills on the field in game action.
Suwannee and Hamilton County have games on Friday, Branford plays Saturday and Lafayette is in action on May 23.
Here’s a look at what each team will bring in spring games.
Ridgeview at Suwannee, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs regained their form in 2018 with a 6-5 season and their first playoff berth since 2015. They changed things up a little with a no-huddle offense and an aggressive, blitzing defense.
Suwannee coach Kyler Hall said he plans to do more of the same in 2019. The spring game should be exciting with the same offensive and defensive schemes from a year ago.
As far as personnel, Suwannee has some talented newcomers who look to replace a lot of graduating seniors.
“One of the biggest question marks, because we lost some of the guys, is the defensive line,” Hall said. “We’ve had two freshmen that have stood out: Mahri Roberts and Garris Reed. Looking forward to seeing how those guys respond in varsity action.”
Hall also pointed to his group of wide receivers as players to watch in the spring game. Antonio White and Dylan Brantley made some plays for Suwannee last year in the passing game.
Receivers Wesley Jones, Terrell Atkinson and Ryndarius Wheeler look to make an impact in their first varsity football experience.
“A lot of talent and skill we look forward to seeing,” Hall said. “Just based off of what we’ve seen in practice, Jones has caught everything — big, physical kid.”
Replacing three-year starting running back Carlton Hall will certainly be a challenge, but Suwannee will have plenty of capable players getting carries on Friday. Jaquez Moore, who was a swiss army knife last season as a running back, wide receiver, quarterback and also one of Suwannee’s best defensive players, will get some carries at running back. White, Nyalen Seymour, Malachi Graham and Robert Robinson could also get some touches in the backfield.
“We’re probably deeper at running back, but replacing CJ (Hall) is a tall task,” said Kyler Hall.
Ridgeview went 5-5 last season with notable wins against Baker County and Menendez. Like Suwannee, the Panthers also graduated some key players. Their quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver were seniors in 2018.
Branford vs. Bell and Dixie County at DCHS, Saturday at 7 p.m.
Branford has shown a lot of improvement in the last two seasons and finally broke its playoff drought in 2018. This spring game will be an important one as the Buccaneers look to prove they can continue building their program even after losing a lot of starters.
They will get a chance to showcase some of their new players in a jamboree against two opponents.
“We’ll have two quarters against a Bell team we’ve been competitive with, and two quarters against a Dixie team that’s at the level we want to get to,” said Branford coach Tim Clark. “They (Dixie) are a solid, postseason-type team every year, and that’s where want want to be. There can be a lot of pressure on ninth and 10th grade kids in their first varsity action, so I just want to see them rise up and compete no matter what happens.”
One of those ninth graders who could see action is quarterback Kyson Johnson, who Clark said is having a good spring. Johnson and rising junior Seth Heiderman will play under center for the Buccaneers.
The loss of standout running back Aaron McQuay will hurt, but the Buccaneers will have some playmakers on the field Friday with RB Dakota Hamm and TE/WR Junior Cress. Hamm and Cress also figure to be two of Branford’s top defensive players.
Offensive line play will also be key for BHS.
“One group I’m excited to watch is the offensive line, because we have questions we need answered there and heavy competition for a couple positions,” Clark said.
Wildwood at Hamilton County, Friday at 7 p.m.
Hamilton County will be tested against a Wildwood team that went to the playoffs last year and graduated just six seniors.
The Trojans and new head coach Richard Vester have seen some positive signs heading into Friday.
“They’ve come a long way in two and a half weeks,” Vester said after the team’s Red and White Game on May 8. “The buy in is coming in place.”
Although the Trojans will probably dress less than 30 players on Friday, they have plenty of speed and talent with quarterback Tyler Whetstone and rising sophomore Jeremiah Gibson, a wide out and running back. Wide receiver Alonzo Lee and running back Kejuan Robinson will also be key offensive players.
“Our first 11 is pretty good. We’ve got some skill players,” Vester said. “We’ve got to build some depth somehow. If we can get that big offensive line coming off the ball and committing this summer, offensively we can be pretty good.”