For the first time in school history, there will be no “Friday Night Lights” moments at Palms West Hospital Stadium on the campus of Royal Palm Beach High School, but that doesn’t mean high school football won’t be played this fall by the Wildcats.
High school football will be played, but the season is getting off to a delayed start. The Wildcats and other Palm Beach County public high schools will start the season on Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31.
The reason why the Wildcats won’t play any home games this fall is because all the public high school football games in Palm Beach County will be played at one of three sites — Jupiter High School, Wellington High School and Boca Raton High School. Each of these schools has the new all-around Astroturf-like fields that can withstand extra games without suffering any wear and tear on the playing surfaces.
For the last three weeks, the Royal Palm Beach Wildcats football team had two weeks of conditioning followed by a week that included the addition of weightlifting to the conditioning routines. Since, Sept. 21, the Wildcats have been doing hundreds of jumping jacks, pushups, sit-ups, mountain climbers and wind sprints. Stretching, both before and after practice, have also been a big part of the conditioning workouts.
Despite the bizarre nature of the current high school football season — which will feature six regular season games followed by a “bowl-like” matchup against a team from either Broward County or Miami-Dade County — Royal Palm Beach High School head football coach Darin DeCosta realizes that he must approach this season with patience.
“Myself and my staff will stay the course,” said DeCosta, who expects a squad of 50 football players this season. “We are doing everything in our power to get this team ready to play football this year.”
Just like all teams in Palm Beach County, during the first two weeks of conditioning, the Wildcats were required to work in groups of nine players with one specific coach for each group. Workouts were limited to 60 minutes a day.
Throughout the early weeks, DeCosta moved from group to group to offer his knowledge, encouragement and words of wisdom. He was very much a coach on the move.
Besides DeCosta’s coaching staff, another important member of the team is athletic trainer Brianna Spence. DeCosta said that Spence’s expertise is vital to keeping the team healthy and on the field.
At practice, Spence has been treating blisters, soreness, ankle sprains and strained muscles. Besides helping the players recover from and cope with injuries, Spence preaches an important dietary message to the team every day.
“Nutrition is very important for these football players, as is hydration during the day and at practice,” Spence said.
DeCosta feels that once his team gets physically fit, he’s optimistic that the Wildcats will have a successful season, especially when it comes to scoring points.
“The offense will be similar to last year’s squad,” he said. “Senior Peyton Mainolfi returns as our starting quarterback.”
DeCosta will be looking for additional leadership on offense from center Christian DiCristino and running back De’Juan Tolbert.
DiCristino is optimistic that the Wildcat offense will be steady and strong. “I feel pretty good about the offense,” he said. “We should be able to protect our quarterback.”
The leader of the defense will be linebacker Jamal Tarver. The defense may utilize a different scheme this year.
“I’m not sure if we’ll be able to play the same defense as last year, based on the personnel,” DeCosta said.
Based on the level of commitment by this Wildcats football team during those first few weeks of conditioning, don’t be surprised to see a steady stream of Friday Nights Lights highlights by the Wildcats.