Aaliyah Boney entertains baby Zaya Green with Diamond Green, Kayana Green and Ashley Harrison at the Blue and White Scrimmage. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Palm Coast Observer
The Matanzas High School football team’s Blue and White Scrimmage was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11, on the practice field. But because of heat conditions, the players had to remain in the fieldhouse, and the scrimmage was rescheduled for 6 p.m. Then it was rescheduled again for 6:30 p.m.
In the past, the Pirates would have had to settle for a short scrimmage. But for the first time in school history, they were able to turn on the practice field lights and play on as the sun set.
The lights were installed a couple of weeks ago and passed final inspection on Aug. 9, athletic director Jordan Butler said. The scrimmage was the Pirates’ first opportunity to use them.
It's just great for our kids and our program. I feel like we're on par with all the quality programs in Florida now. We got a great fieldhouse. We got a great stadium. And now we’ve got a lit practice field.” — MATT FORREST, Matanzas football coach
“It feels good to be able to have our end-of-camp scrimmage under the lights,” coach Matt Forrest said. “Otherwise, we would have had to quit 45 minutes or an hour ago. It would have been too dark to finish. It's just great for our kids and our program. I feel like we're on par with all the quality programs in Florida now. We got a great fieldhouse. We got a great stadium. And now we’ve got a lit practice field.”
In accordance with state statute and FHSAA protocols, athletic teams are using the wet bulb globe temperature that measures air temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover to decide when and how long athletes can participate in outdoor activities.
“If it gets hot enough, they can’t be outside at all,” athletic trainer Michael Doersch said. “When the wet bulb temperature gets up to 87, you get two hours (of outdoor activities). If it’s 92, you can’t be on the field at all. So it’s following protocols, keeping everyone safe.”
To avoid the higher temperatures, as well as afternoon rainstorms, the Pirates now have the option of practicing as early as 6 a.m., nearly an hour before sunrise, and be finished, showered and dressed in time for school, Forrest said.
“It is absolutely huge,” Butler said of the new lights. “With the wet bulb and the FHSAA policies on heat, if we were trying to practice every day after school, we wouldn't get a practice in until mid-September. Now we're able to actually get out and practice when the sun starts to go down and the temperature goes down and that wet bulb reading goes down. We can get out here and turn the lights on and practice.”
Senior Cole Hash remembers the many afternoon practices that have been canceled over the past three years.
“We've had multiple weeks where it’s been way too hot to be outside, or it's rained,” Hash said. “And now, we have the opportunity to practice, and even if it's too hot, we can wait it out a little bit and get some good work in each day.”
GAINES SPEAKS TO FRESHMAN CLASS
Lineman Ahmad Louis-Charles said the Blue and White Scrimmage was a good reflection of how hard the Pirates have been working during preseason camp.
“We’ve been going at it hard the past couple of weeks,” he said. “We still have a lot to learn. We still have a lot to prove.”
The intensity was higher this year compared to last year’s Blue and White Scrimmage, Hash said.
“We have a lot of guys back now,” Hash said. “Ahmad is back; he had an injury last year. (Defensive back) Jordan Mills had an injury last year. (Quarterback) Dakwon Evans had an injury last year. All these guys are going to be back and be able to play. It’s going to be a great scenario for our team to have all these leaders back that can really help us win ball games.”
One player who the entire team is happy to see return is defensive back/running back/receiver Sho’Marion Gaines, who had moved to Texas last season. In the spring game against Nease, Gaines caught a 25-yard touchdown pass, returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and intercepted a pass.
“He's very dynamic,” Forrest said. “He's one of those guys that when he gets the ball in his hands, he can go score, and when he's on the field on defense, he can make a play and get the ball back.”
But it’s what Gaines has accomplished off the field since he returned to Palm Coast last winter that has impressed his coaches, teachers, administrators and classmates the most.
“We've always known he was a great ball player, but I think he had a lot of stuff that he had to work out and figure out who he was and what he wanted to be,” Forrest said. “And I think he's grown up a lot. I think he was heavily influenced when he was younger by the wrong people. And I think he figured out who he wanted to be as a man and what path he wanted to take, and he started making his own way.”
He’s improved his grades and he’s become a leader on and off the field, Forrest said. His turnaround has been so impressive, Matanzas administrators asked him to speak to the entire incoming freshman class on the first day of school.
I just told the (freshman class) to take advantage of the time you have. ... Don't fail your classes, just do everything right.” — SHO'MARION GAINES
“I just told the freshmen to take advantage of the time you have,” Gaines said. “Because I'm a senior right now, and they're going to be seniors sooner than they think. Just take advantage of everything you got now. Don't fail your classes, just do everything right.
“I feel like I had a good message, and I really think they listened to me. I really think they're going to do what they have to do,” Gaines said.
Forrest said he’s proud of the growth Gaines has shown. Now, colleges are looking at him. Mercer has shown some interest as well as a couple of Division II programs, Forrest said.
“I think if he continues to have his grades up where they were last semester, 3.0 and better, he can get some good looks. We feel like he’s definitely on that track,” Forrest said.