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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)
Are you ready for some football?
Ready or not, the 20 days of spring high school football practice began Monday 18 area schools and academies. The only exception is Braden River High, which was barred from holding spring practice by the Florida High School Athletic Association because of offseason conditioning violations.
It is the earliest spring practice has begun. Normally, it starts the first Monday in May and concludes with either a game or jamboree on the 20th day.
This year, however, spring practice begins on the penultimate Monday in April.
Four area schools welcome new coaches. Actually, two are not very new at all.
Long-time Southeast High coach Paul Maechtle, who was an assistant at Cardinal Mooney, takes over the
Cougars' program on a permanent basis. Also, former Out-of-Door Academy coach Brett Timmons is the new coach at Southeast High.
Maechtle said he had more than 40 players come out for the first practice on Monday. The biggest difference between his former Seminoles and this year's Mooney squad is that Maechtle plans on spending more time on the defensive side of the ball.
"I've kind of turned the offensive operation to Chris Conboy, who coached for years at Manatee," Maecthle said. "In my career I've bounced back and forth to both sides so it really doesn't make a difference anymore."
Maechtle said he and his staff have worked to make the Cougars bigger, faster and stronger during the offseason. He's pleased with what he's seen so far.
"I've really enjoyed watching their work ethic in the weight room," he said. They've really been deliberate and worked hard. I'm anxious to see if that translates into improved performance in that time we're together as a team."
Sarasota High and Lakewood Ranch also have new coaches. Former Manatee High player and Braden River High assistant Spencer Hodges takes over the Sailors while veteran Naval Academy assistant Christopher Culton is the new man for the Mustangs.
Hodges said he's learned a lot from a lot of fellow coaches along the way, namely former Manatee head coach Joe Kinnan and Braden River coach Curt Bradley.
"Joe ran a great program. He worried about his kids and his kids only," Hodges said. "I've taken a lot of my offensive philosophy from Chris Weinke (former IMG head coach) and Kerwin Bell. I'm not going to say we'll be pass-happy, but we'll be very sound in our passing game and we'll have a complimentary run game to go with it."
Hodges saw his Sailors don helmets for the first time on Monday. He said he expects his team to compete for the next 20 days.
"We'll see who is going to start where," Hodges said. "The best 11 will start on offense, and the best 11 will start on defense - and the bottom 15 kids are probably going to get cut. We want to make sure every kid develops a football IQ."
Both Maechtle and Hodges said they have one main objective for their team this spring: staying healthy heading into the summer.
"We just want them all to stick around and see this thing through from Day one to Day 20," Maechtle said.
All except IMG Academy, which will have an intrasquad scrimmage, will play either a game or be part of a jamboree in May. The first games are May 11 with the final action taking place May 24. Braden River was scheduled to play at Immokalee, but that game has been canceled.
Staff writer Dennis Maffezzoli contributed to this report.
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