Kyler Hall often heard of Maclay-North Florida Christian rivalry but had never experienced it firsthand. That was until the second-year Marauders’ football coach attended a boys’ basketball game between the two schools last season.
Hall was sold.
“I saw the crowd, the students, and how everyone was so excited, cheering and being so loud, I figured we might as well do it for football,” Hall said. “I really think it is something we can continue in football for years.”
Maclay and NFC meet in football for the first time tonight in a preseason game at NFC. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Jamborees and Kickoff Classics are also on tap tonight for teams across the Big Bend. Godby, Rickards, Lincoln and Leon are in a four-team jamboree at Cox Stadium.
East Gadsden, meanwhile, is at Bainbridge (Ga.) High. John Paul II opens its regular season Saturday night against visiting Brookwood (Ga.). The regular season opens for remaining Big Bend teams next week.
In addition to NFC, five area teams — Class 7A Lincoln at No. 9, Class 5A Wakulla at No. 10, Class 4A East Gadsden at No. 5, Class 3A Madison County at No. 2, and defending Class 1A state champion Jefferson County at No. 2 — are ranked in the Associated Press Florida high school preseason football poll in their respective classifications.
While the Marauders continue to build a tradition entering their fourth season, the defending Class 2A state champion and top-ranked Eagles are determined to add to their storied legacy.
And count NFC coach Robert Craft among those who want to see the Maclay-NFC rivalry thrive in football.
“Coach Hall and I both thought this would be a good way to get the rivalry started,” Craft said.
“People in Tallahassee know the rivalry between the two schools, and it’s neat for us to be able to do that in football, too. I know our kids are excited.”
The Eagles are coming off a 13-0 season but must replace 19 seniors, including quarterback Matt Dobson.
The independent Marauders won nine games last season, punctuated by the North Florida Conference championship. They must replace All-Big Bend running back Lee Williams.
Although tonight’s game won’t count as a regular-season matchup, there’s no denying its importance regarding bragging rights.
“I am excited for our kids, especially for our seniors players who have wanted to play in this game,” Hall said.
“To get the opportunity to play a tradition-rich program like NFC, the defending state champs, is great for us. I am ready to see our kids compete. I know they are tired of hitting each other and excited to get on the field.”