Football Guide Football 2010 Preps : Page 2
S 2 THE LED G E R • THURSDAY , A UGUST 2 6 , 201 0 • WWW. P OLKPREP S . C OM PREPS2010 SEASON PREVIEW [ THE EXCITEMENTOF FALL ] S 2 Brandt Merritt firstname.lastname@example.org Handful Of Polk Teams in TitleHunt H MICHAELWILSON | THE LEDGER (2007) LAKELANDFOOTBALL PLAYERS rush the field with Bryant Stadium’s giant scoreboard in the background. On Friday nights, Bryant Stadium takes on the feel of a small college gamemore than a high school game — with the scoreboard, battleship, helmet car and a sea of orange and black. The Best of FridayNight T The LedgerRanks the Top 10PolkVenues for High School Football By BRANDT MERRITT | THE LEDGER here are few things more electric than a packed football stadium on a cool, crisp Friday night in Polk County. The bands, the cheerleaders, the P.A. announcers, the chants from the stands. They all build on one another tocreate anexcitingatmosphere forwhich fanswait in eager anticipation fromJanu-ary through August. But what makes one school’s Friday night experience different from another, and which teams in Polk County put on the best prep football show? Here’s one lookat some of the top Friday night stages around: #1 — Bryant Stadium Lakeland High School If anout-of-towner unfamiliarwithhigh school football showed up to Bryant Sta-diumonarandomFridaynight, theymight think they stumbled across a small col-lege’s stadium. The Dreadnaughts’ home fi eldexperience trulyputs theminanother league, with the mammoth scoreboard, the battleship, the helmet cart and the perfectly maintained turf. Of course, the atmosphere was created and is sustained by winning, withLakeland being themost successful programin the county over the past decade. A victory makes every Friday night more memorable. #2 — Denison Stadium Winter Haven High School There might not be a more imposing stadium in the county. Denison’s concrete stands rise high above the fi eld on both sides,making the BlueDevils’ home field seem like that of a small college similar to Bryant Stadium’s feel. Being off-campus from the high school also provides a big-ger sense of community with the stadium placed in the middle of a neighborhood. #3 — Frank S.Battle Field FortMeadeHigh School The name of the Miners’ stadium alone gets it in the top 10. But the Miners are the fi rst teamon this list in a one-school town, and that’s part of what makes the experience there so special, something Lakeland Christian coach Bobby Dan McGlohorn called“kind of a pure football experience.” Against rivals like Bartow and Frostproof, there’s not an empty seat in the house. EXTRA COVERAGE AT POLKPREPS.COM Log on to the new PolkPreps.com to see a hoto gallery of all of Polk’s stadiums. DAVID MILLS | THE LEDGER (2007) FROSTPROOF’S FARIS BRANNEN STADIUM isn’t flashy. It’s simply one of the county’s most intimate and enjoyable places to play, with a between-the-hedges feel like at the University of Georgia. When rivals come to town, it lights upwith excitement. INDEX The Ledger’s 2010 Prep Football Preview was planned and organized by Prep Editor Brandt Merritt. He can be reached at brandt.merritt@ theledger.com or 863-802-7526. OTHER CONTRIBUTORS SPORTS EDITOR: Andy Kuppers DESIGNEDITOR: Steve Antley COVER: John Pitts DESIGNERS: Nathan Sampey, John Pitts PHOTOGRAPHERS: David Downs, Paul Johnson, Rick Runion, Cindy Skop GRAPHICS: MarkWilliams CORRESPONDENTS: Roy Fuoco, Raymond Beasock Log on today to experience Polk County’s new home for high school sports: PolkPreps.com. Fromstats to schedules to live videos to photo galleries, we have prep sports in Polk County covered. LakeWales High School Legion Field is another off-campus stadium that has a solid community feel. Nestled right next to Lake Wales itself, the stadium also hosts one of the most unique features in the county – a bagpipe #7—Legion Field #4—FarisBrannen Stadium, FrostproofHigh School The Bulldogs have their own slice of be-tween-the-hedges heaven, similar to the Universityof Georgia. Faris Brannen’s in-timate feel andlocationright in themiddle of towncreatea nostalgic atmosphere. For-merLedger reporterDurwardBucksaidif he had to pick one football game towatch, it would beFortMeade or Pahokee playing at Frostproof. There’s nothing extravagant or fl ashy or oversized, just a place for the community to come together and watch football. That counts for a lot. #5 — VirgilRamage Stadium LakeGibsonHigh School The Braves dress up The Reservation withtheir own unique touches,namely the tee-pee in the north end zone. It’s also a treat towatch the longmarch of the players from the locker room on campus, across the parking lot and into the stadium, adding to the anticipation of the opening kickoff. #6 — Johnny Johnson Stadium, Kathleen High School Recent renovations to the high school will add some modern touches around the Red Devils’ home, but the stadium still retains its old-school look and feel. The bleachers are metal but spread almost the entirewidth of the fi eld, allowing for mas-sive crowdswhen rivals such as Lakeland and Lake Gibson visit. The home-cooked meals in the press box are a great touch. troupe complete with kilts that is part of the Highlanders’ band. And with no track aroundthe fi eld, the fans get to experience the game from close-up, similar to Bryant and Faris Brannen. Lakeland Christian School There isn’t a more attractive place to watch a football game thanLCS’ complex, complete with its own video scoreboard (though not quite as large as Bryant Sta-dium) and plush artifi cial turf. There won’t be 10,000 people on Friday nights and the program still isdevelopingits tradition, but any fan will have a comfortable, enjoyable experience at 3-year-old Viking Stadium. The leather seats in the press box aren’t bad, either. #9— Memorial Stadium BartowHigh School The Yellow Jackets play in the shadow of the city’s water tower, which proudly proclaims Bartowthe “City of Champions.” The school’s new fence surrounding the athletic park gives fansa grand entrance to the facility, and few communities support their teamaswell asBartowdoes.Mascots are always fun, too, so the Yellow Jacket suit is a nice touch. #10 — The Phosphate Bowl Mulberry High School Another stadium that belongs on this list almost by its name alone. It also has a true bowl feel in the home stands, as fans actuallywalk down the bleachers to their seats from the campus, which sits right above the stadium. Bring bug spray at the start of the season (the stadium is lovingly nicknamed the Mosquito Bowl), but this is still an intimate, enjoyable place to take in a game. #8 — Viking Stadium igh school football fans in Polk County should be ready for a wild ride this season. Not only are there a hand-ful of teams in great posi-tion tomake a run at a state title, but there also are some much-improved teams from last season that shouldmake almost every district race fun towatch. Let’s start with the teams in line for deep postseason runs. Three Polk teams ad-vanced to the state semifi-nals last season: Lakeland in Class 5A, Lake Wales in Class 3A and Fort Meade in Class 1A. All three lost but have a shot to get back and try again in 2010. TheMiners went unde-feated in the regular sea-son in 2009 and were the top-ranked teamin Class 1A before their upset loss to Delray Beach American Heritage. Ronald Jones should shine at quarterback, and Brandon Fulse (TE/DE) is one to watch because he’ll be starring on Saturdays next fall. Lakelandwill be a threat as always in Class 5A, but the Dreadnaughts have to replace a lot of talent on de-fense, especially at lineback-er, where Will Lucas (Pur-due) and Quayshawn Nealy (Georgia Tech) leave huge voids as they hit the field on Saturdays this year. Last year’s 5A champion, Tampa Plant, beat Lake-land in the semifinals and returns superstar James Wilder Jr., but St. Thomas Aquinas will be very good again, as will last year’s state runner-up, Bradenton Manatee. LakeWales returns a loaded senior class led by quarterback Justin Shafer, receivers Javess Blue and Colton Davis and running back/linebacker Kevin Prioleau. The Highlanders return 20 starters in all from the teamthat lost to Miami POWER RANKINGS [ PLEASE SEE MERRITT, S3 ] LARGE SCHOOLS 1. LAKELAND: The offense should be good, but there are questions on defense. 2. KATHLEEN: Devils’ “D” could be best in the state. 3. LAKEWALES: Loaded on both sides of the ball. 4.WINTERHAVEN: Progress of QB Levi Borders is key. 5. LAKE GIBSON: Running gamewill be dominant. SMALL SCHOOLS 1. FORTMEADE: One of the best 1A teams in the state. 2. FROSTPROOF: Bulldogs are solid up front. 3.MULBERRY: New QB Malcolm Sanders has talent. 4. VICTORY CHRISTIAN: Storm’s off ensive line will help them start off strong. 5. LAKELANDCHRISTIAN: Vikings should have their most-talented teamyet.