Prep football heats up with Friday night's preseason games

Community School school quarterback Andrew Tomaini throws the ball while head coach Damon Jones looks on during practice on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Scott Butherus/Staff

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Community School school quarterback Andrew Tomaini throws the ball while head coach Damon Jones looks on during practice on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. Scott Butherus/Staff

Golden Gate at Miami-Westminster Christian, 4 p.m.

Community School at St. Petersburg-Canterbury, 7 p.m.

First Baptist at Coral Springs Christian, 7 p.m.

Coral Springs Charter at St. John Neumann, 7 p.m.

Marco Island Academy at Bradenton-St. Stephen’s, 7 p.m.

Barron Collier at Estero, 7:30 p.m.

Gulf Coast at South Fort Myers, 7:30 p.m.

LaBelle at Immokalee, 7:30 p.m.

Evangelical Christian at Lely, 7:30 p.m.

Hialeah at Naples, 7:30 p.m.

Cape Coral at Palmetto Ridge, 7:30 p.m.

— After suffering through three tough weeks of soul-drenching humidity and heat indexes that read more like baking instructions, prep football teams around the state will turn their focus to a different type of barometer: their preseason opponents.

These games will serve as an early measuring stick for their development as a team, a gauge to track their progress from the offseason and a scale to see where they stand against other programs.

For teams like Palmetto Ridge, Barron Collier, Lely and Gulf Coast, Friday will also be a test of their new head coaches. Ryan Mitchell and the Bears will take on Cape Coral, Dan Pallante and the Cougars will travel to Estero, and Stacey Stewart and the Trojans will host Evangelical Christian.

“What we are looking forward to most is just to see where we are at, where our improvement is from over the summer and how hard we’ve been working,” Stewart said.

Not only will it be the first look at Pete Fominaya as head coach at Gulf Coast, the game also gives the Sharks — who will take on South Fort Myers — a chance to survey a neighboring school they might not otherwise get to see.

“Us being such a large school, and we play in a district kind of out of the area, so that separates us from a lot of the teams that have these local rivalries,” Fominaya said.

For Marco Island Academy the game won’t just be a measuring stick but also a point of origin. Head coach Andrew Delgado and his Manta Rays will kick off for the first time in program history tonight at Bradenton-St. Stephen’s.

For teams like Golden Gate, which will play Westminster Christian in Miami, the preseason will be a chance to step outside of their comfort zones.

“We’re looking forward to playing Westminster and you know we are focused on that,” Titans coach Mike DiGrigoli said. “We never change our philosophy. It is always a one-game approach.”

Naples, the Class 6A-District 12 champions from last season, will be matching up against a much bigger school. The Golden Eagles will see how their defense, which returns 10 starters, stacks up against a Class 8A school in Hialeah.

For young programs like Community School and First Baptist, the games represent a chance to grade themselves against more established schools. Seahawks coach Damon Jones will take his squad to St. Petersburg-Canterbury, while the Lions will host Coral Springs Christian.

“They were the district champs last year and were able to advance. They are a solid program so it will be a good test heading into what is going to be a very tough district for us,” Jones said.

“We look forward to all of them,” FBA coach Billy Sparacio said. “Just to be able to get back on the field on Friday nights and be able to play. ... It’s exciting for football to be here again.”

For the rest, the preseason represents a chance to make some final adjustments and refinements before the season kicks off for real on Aug. 31.

“The LaBelle game is basically a scrimmage,” Immokalee coach Jerrod Ackley said. “It doesn’t count in the scorebook so we are treating that game as an opportunity to evaluate all of our players and our program.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Estero coach Rich Dombroski said. “It’ll be a barometer game, as I call it. It is going to show us where we are really at after the fall classic.”

St. John Neumann, which hopes to challenge ECS for the Class 2A-District 6 title this season, will host Coral Springs Charter to round out the area games.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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