South Florida Conference Ready To Leave A Mark In 2018

Larry Blustein
August 15, 2018 - 9:40 am

Larry Blustein

When the Forida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) changed formats last year, many were caught off guard.

As traditional powers missed out on the state playoffs because of a point system that was devised to reward programs for playing a more challenging schedule, it turned out that just playing a regular schedule would be good enough to get into the playoffs.

As smaller schools (1A-4A) were no longer competing in a district, it put many programs in a tough situation – having to schedule all of its games – without help from a district or conference. That did not sit well with many.

After the season was finished, talk began to have schools play as an independent, which would give them a set schedule and structure. They would have a conference title game and everything. But instead of remaining an independent school, if a team had enough points, they could qualify for one of the six spots open for the playoffs.

Last Saturday, the South Florida Conference (SFC) met for an inaugural media day at Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale.

With many of the familiar south Florida football teams on hand, the conference, which has been around for the past nine years, would once again shine in the spotlight.

Key West – a 4A playoff program last year – came up with head coach John Hughes and his program – which opens at home this Thursday night against nationally rated Cardinal Gibbons.

Highly successful Miami Gulliver Prep turned to the SFC this year to ensure that head coach Earl Sims and his Raiders would be on a level playing field.

“Scheduling is usually a headache, but when you know that you already have eight opponents that are all on a level playing field, you feel better as a team,” Sims said. “Also, having a conference media day for the coaches and kids is huge – and it’s something we are loving already.”

For Calvary Christian Academy head coach Kirk Hoza, having the opportunity for his Eagles to be playing a challenging, but competitive schedule makes the season a lot easier to prepare for.

“This conference is the wave of the future,” Hoza told the media on hand. “When you have a chance to compete in the state playoffs, and you do it by going against teams who have the same kind of players you do, it gets everyone excited.”

As head coach Edwin Pata begins his season Miami LaSalle, the former college coach knows that it’s a process and his team is very much up for it – with younger athletes as well as some returning players who already see the difference.

Rex Nottage has helped to set standards for his players and North Broward Prep. Because this program has played independent for a few years, the challenges of getting a competitive schedule together has slowed things down. But now, as his team is a few weeks from getting it going, he remains very pleased with the program.

As he opened his doors to all the conference teams, Pine Crest head coach Troy Harrison fully understands that not everyone makes it to the state playoffs – and as all the programs in the conference are high academic schools – playing a balanced, but challenging schedule is the only way to make this go.

“We have all worked hard in the offseason – because we take this sport very serious,” Harrison pointed out. “By having this conference with this group of schools is because each and every one of them carry with them plenty of credibility – in and out of the classroom.”

Veteran West Palm Beach King’s Academy head coach Keith Allen brought his competitive team down – along with first year North Palm Beach Benjamin head coach Eric Kresser.

For Mickey Groody, competing has been in his blood since his days at St. Thomas Aquinas. That competitiveness and talent got him to FAU – and this season – he takes over at John Caroll in Fort Pierce, where the Rams are another piece of the SFC to keep an eye on.

As players and coaches spoke about the season ahead, this first Media Day event was indeed a success, as schools had the chance to interact and share football stories.

Great job to Pine Crest Athletic Director Jeff Johnson and the staff, which stepped up on a very busy day.

Catch the South Florida High School Sports Radio Show each Saturday morning (10-11) on WQAM (560AM - https://wqam.radio.com/media/podcast/south-florida-high-school-sports-radio). For the past 11 years, the players and coaches who are making the headlines, join the program. You will learn a lot about football recruiting!

PHOTO CREDIT BILL RUHL/ SFC