The area's high school football teams wrapped up spring practice with exhibition games May 19.
The players won't have much time off with daily conditioning and weight training beginning in June and camps scheduled in the summer. And fall practice is just over two months away. Here's what the coaches had to say after their spring games:
Flagler Palm Coast
The Bulldogs were physical in their two halves of spring ball against Lake Brantley and Sanford Seminole, FPC coach Robert Paxia said. With the varsity players in the game, FPC tied Lake Brantley 0-0 and fell to the Seminoles 21-7.
"We were looking at how kids progressed from last fall. Some are bigger and stronger or faster, and we need to move them to other positions."
ROBERT PAXIA, FPC coach
"We have a lot we can build off of," Paxia said. "Our mistakes were very correctable. It was a good measuring stick. Spring is an evaluation period. We had 20 practices, and we were looking at how kids progressed from last fall. Some are bigger and stronger or faster, and we need to move them to other positions. Also, we wanted to get as many kids on film as possible to show (college recruiters)."
Gerod Tolbert, who is coming off a fourth-place performance in triple jump at the Class 4A state track championships, returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown against Seminole. Tolbert moves to defense after playing running back last year.
"He'd been playing cornerback for five days," Paxia said of the converted running back. "He's done a great job growing into his body."
Rodney Hill showed why he is one of the nation's top inside linebacker recruites in the 2024 class.
"Rodney was the best player on the field from any of the three teams," Paxia said. "He's always been good in coverage with his elite speed. He was also very active in the running game. He was super physical at the point of attack."
The Bullodgs are replacing their entire defensive line. Paxia said one of their goals heading into the fall will be to find depth on the defensive front.
Seabreeze coach Pat Brown knew this offseason would be a rebuilding period for the defense after losing two strong senior classes in a row. That showed in a 34-14 loss to Winter Park in the spring game.
The Sandcrabs return defensive back Eli Campbell, who already has nine Division I offers, but they lost three other DBs.
"We have to focus on getting stronger and tougher."
PAT BROWN, Seabreeze coach
"We have to focus on getting stronger and tougher," Brown said.
They have more experienced players returning on offense, but they must find replacements for their top three receivers — Dimitri Campbell, Peyton Schofield and Tashod Troutman — who combined for 88 catches and 1,502 yards last season. Brown believes the 'Crabs will be in good shape with converted quarterback Sam "Sosa" Gonzalez and Tayshawn Galery.
Galery caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Boda in the spring game.
"It was a nice catch. He got two feet in at the sideline," Brown said.
Tight end Giovanni Mitchell caught the other touchdown.
With Boda returning, Seabreeze could afford to move Gonzalez to receiver. Gonzalez caught nine passes last year. This fall, instead of being Boda's backup, Gonzalez could become Boda's favorite receiver.
"Last year, he was learning the position," Brown said. "In the offseason he learned proper hand positioning and how to run routes and break press. He's going to be one of the best receivers in the area."
The Pirates played one half in a spring jamboree at Daytona Stadium, tying Atlantic 6-6. Pine Ridge defeated Father Lopez 14-0 in the first half.
"We came into spring with three goals," Matanzas coach Matt Forrest said. "Getting fundamentally better — tackling, blocking, footwork — solidifying the depth chart; and staying injury free. We accomplished all three goals."
"I think the defense is really jelling as a group."
MATT FORREST, Matanzas coach
Forrest was pleased with the Pirates' defense, led by rising juniors Cole Hash at linebacker and defensive backs Jordan Mills and Sho'Marion Gaines. Defensive linemen Zach O'Gwynn and Amir Tariq and outside linebackers Luke Doner and Dave Peterson also were impressive, Forrest said.
"I think the defense is really jelling as a group," he said. "We gave Atlantic some short fields, and our defense held them to some three-and-outs. I don't think we played as polished on offense, but we ran the football effectively and (quarterback Dakwon Evans) got better with his pocket presence."
Running back Clay Vogel, who joined the team in mid-season last year after moving into the area, had a 50-yard touchdown run on the third play from scrimmage.
"With a full off-season with us, he's really going to help our running game," Forrest said.