With the football season at public high schools in Palm Beach County not kicking off until Friday, Oct. 30 — the eve of Halloween — it could be a rather spooky high school football season this fall.
Admittedly, the optics for high school football at the public school level are unusual with a late start, a limited schedule of six regular season games and no state playoff structure for Palm Beach County public high schools. The season will conclude for many teams with a “bowl-like” game against a team with a similar record from either Broward or Miami-Dade.
Despite the uncertainty of everything on the high school gridiron, Seminole Ridge High School head football coach Rick Casko has a clear vision for the upcoming season. “This year’s high school football season is all about the seniors,” Casko said.
He and his assistant coaches are currently busy preparing the team for the upcoming football season, which starts at a time when the regular season is normally drawing to a close.
According to Casko, everything about this season is different than past gridiron campaigns. But at least games are being played in a year that has been marred by a worldwide pandemic. He totally understands the cautious approach to playing high school football this fall in South Florida.
“It’s a delayed start to the season, and we’re hopefully playing a total of seven games,” said Casko, who is beginning his third year as head coach of the Hawks. “The new schedule has not been released yet. While we’d like to play more games, I understand why we are playing a reduced schedule. This pandemic is bigger than football.”
Conditioning sessions for public high school football teams in Palm Beach County started on Monday, Sept. 21.
“We have two weeks of conditioning, and we are limited to an hour each day,” Casko explained. “We are not wearing helmets, pads or even touching a football. We begin with a warm-up where we work on everybody getting full range of motion. In our drills, we work on acceleration and deceleration, plus we emphasize running drills that demand changes of direction.”
In order to keep everybody safe from COVID-19, the players and coaches work in small groups.
“We coach in pods of nine,” Casko said. “For every nine players, there’s one coach. Each pod of nine players is 30 or 40 yards away from the nearest pod. And, within each pod, the players are utilizing social distancing.”
Casko is pleased with the progress of his team and the commitment to excellence of his players.
“We are doing a good job of getting them acclimatized to moving,” Casko said.
Once the games begin, Casko will be looking for leadership from five returning starters from last year’s team.
The Hawks’ top two players from last year’s squad are senior defensive tackle Yosbany Gonzalez and running back Deion McMinns.
“Both are great kids who lead by example,” Casko said. “They are both strong and tough.”
Despite the existence of the virus, Gonzalez has not stopped training.
“For months, I have been lifting, training and doing ladder drills,” Gonzalez said.
Despite the delayed start to the season, Gonzalez is committed to making this season as good as possible.
“It’s a little frustrating,” he said. “At least we are playing seven games. We’ll do the best we can.”
As for Casko’s expectations this year, he admits that it’s a head-scratcher since everything is different this year.
“It’s the same for everybody this year,” Casko said. “Again, this season is all about giving the seniors a final season of high school football.”