This year’s edition of the Palm Beach Central High School varsity football team is the exact opposite of last year’s team, but that will happen when a squad loses 26 seniors to graduation, as was the case for the Broncos.
Last year’s squad — which reached the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Class 4M state semifinals before losing to Apopka, 27-24 — was strong, talented, experienced and confident. This year’s team does not share those same characteristics, at least not yet.
“Last year’s team knew how to figure things out during a game,” PBCHS head football coach Kevin Thompson said. “This year’s team is still learning. This year’s team is young and inexperienced.”
But, according to Thompson, his 52 players will learn quickly what it takes to win football games at the high school varsity level in South Florida.
The Palm Beach Central Broncos learned a little bit about high school football when the team was blanked 15-0 by Atlantic High School during its kickoff classic game on Thursday, Aug. 17. “That was a good way to assess the team,” Thompson said.
In addition to an experienced group of coaches, this year’s team does have a group of players who played a leading role on last year’s team. Thompson will be looking for those players to lead by example and guide their younger teammates.
Five of those returning players are junior wide receiver Nedrick Boldin, senior running back Leon Williams, junior cornerback Tony Williams, senior safety Mikey Gayle and junior cornerback Damon Allen.
One of the biggest voids to fill from last year’s team is at the quarterback position. Last year’s starting signal caller Ahmad Haston is now a freshman at the University of Massachusetts, competing for the starting job with the Minutemen. His replacements are sophomore Caleb Butler and freshman Kingston Rust.
According to Thompson, both are talented quarterbacks with promising futures.
“Caleb is a gunslinger who knows our system, while Kingston is very, very talented with a strong arm,” Thompson said.
Two of the strongest parts of this year’s team for Palm Beach Central are its group of wide receivers and defensive backs.
“I think we have some of the most talented wide receivers and defensive backs in the area,” Thompson said. “In games, our wide receivers will not face a more talented group of cornerbacks and safeties than who they see in practice every day. And our cornerbacks and safeties will not see a more talented group of wide receivers than their own teammates.”
In many respects, the success of this year’s team will also depend on how quickly its offensive line gels and operates as one unit working together.
“Our offensive linemen are big, young and talented,” Thompson said. “We are now teaching them to be connected and to work together.”
The Broncos open up the regular season with a long road game, when they will travel north to Creekside High School near Jacksonville on Friday, Aug. 25. The Broncos and the host Knights will start at 7 p.m. Next week, the Broncos travel to play the Boca Raton High School Bobcats on Thursday, Aug. 31 for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
As for other high school football teams in the western communities, three will be led by first-year head coaches: Ross Pryor at Wellington High School, Dan Burack at the King’s Academy and Kevin Green at Berean Christian School.
The Wildcats from Royal Palm Beach High School will open their regular season on Friday, Aug. 25 when they play at Fort Pierce Westwood Academy. The kickoff is at 7 p.m. Landon Earl will be Royal Palm Beach’s starting quarterback. Royal Palm Beach head coach Chuck Kenyon, starting his second year with the Wildcats, said that his young players are continuing to show weekly progress. “We are slowly starting to see the pieces of the puzzle come together,” Kenyon said.
The Wellington High School Wolverines will host the Park Vista High School Cobras on Friday, Aug. 25. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The Wolverines will be led by quarterback Jonathan Paul. Next week, the Wolverines will host the Martin County High School Tigers on Thursday, Aug. 31 for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Seminole Ridge High School Hawks opened their season at home on Thursday, Aug. 24 when the Glades Central High School Raiders from Belle Glade visited. The leader of the Hawks’ defense will be junior middle linebacker Ty Jackson, who set a school record last year for the most tackles in a season with 138. Next week, the Hawks host local rival Royal Palm Beach High School on Thursday, Aug. 31. That game has a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
The King’s Academy Lions begin their season on the road Friday, Aug. 25 when they travel to Boca Raton to play the St. Andrew’s Scots. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Next week, the Lions will host Glades Central on Friday, Sept. 1 for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
The Bulldogs from Berean Christian School will travel to Sarasota to play their season-opener against the Thunder from the Out-of-Door Academy on Friday, Aug. 25. The kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Next week, the Bulldogs will host the Oxbridge Academy from West Palm Beach on Friday, Sept. 1 for a 4 p.m. kickoff. That game will mark Berean’s first-ever on-campus football game in school history.