Since 2012, Tate and West Florida High followers have learned to expect a momentous showdown within the first two weeks of the season’s start.
This year seems to be no exception, as the Aggies host West Florida at 7:30 p.m for the PNJ / ESPN Pensacola game of the week.
The Aggies have topped the Jaguars the past two seasons (17-3, 19-7), while the Jaguars produced wins from 2012-14.
While the Jaguars feature more returning players, the Aggies have a variety of new talent stepping up to fill voids left after last season.
The outcome of the match could easily be defined by the run game, as each team holds at least four productive running backs.
But it seems the Aggies signal caller — QB Jake Henry — might be the primary focus of West Florida’s defense.
“First of all, Jake Henry is one of the best players in the area,” West Florida coach Harry Lees said. “Whether he’s at QB, DB or wide receiver … everything he does he’s a winner.
“(Tate) has a good stable of running backs and they run downhill real well. They are pretty tough to prepare for, they run a lot of misdirection. The way Henry can extend plays, you’ve gotta always have someone watching the quarterback. He put the ball on the money for some big plays (last Friday night). Tate is gonna be fired up and they are gonna play really hard. It’s a big test for us — we’ve already had two so we might as well have another.”
To snap the Aggies two-year streak against West Florida, Lees wants to see more consistency on offense and heightened aggressiveness on defense.
“On offense, I wouldn’t call us a big-play team right now but we have big-play potential,” Lees said. “We’ve been grinding it out. We’ve got to be consistent and get rid of all the little mistakes. If we get out and start getting early penalties it makes it tough to catch up.
“On defense, I want to see guys fly to the ball. Escambia did some things to us last week — we had guys around the ball several times and they just kind of squirted out of there. We’ll have to tackle well Friday to be in good shape.”
Win or lose, Friday’s game is bound to create a special moment for the players — especially West Florida’s seniors.
Tate has five more games against area teams after Week 2, the Jaguars have just three games against area teams — the amount of “packed house” games left in their high school careers are dwindling.
“Other than Pensacola High — because it’s a district game and it’s in town — this will be one of the best atmospheres of the season,” Lees said. “Tate has a tremendous following, their band is incredible and they have a great student section. The games with Escambia and Pine Forest had crazy atmospheres too.
“It will be exciting to see and I hope the kids react really well to the moment and I hope the seniors enjoy the moment. They won’t get many more chances in high school to play in front of a crowd as big as we will see Friday night. Sometimes that gets overlooked.”
Want to go?
Who: West Florida Jaguars (No. 3) at Tate Aggies (No. 4)
Where: Pete Gindl Stadium (Tate High)
Skinny: Establishing the run and minimizing big plays allowed will be the key for both teams. Tate has won the last two seasons, holding West Florida to one score each year.
Radio: ESPN Pensacola 1450 am/ 101.1 FM