Florida has a curious scheduling anomaly for high school football: full-length preseason football games that don’t count towards teams’ records but are usually played as intensely as regular-season games.
The only preseason game this week involving two Super 25-ranked teams is Friday as No. 20 Carol City (Miami Gardens) plays at No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton).
IMG has an incredible amount of talent, including the top-ranked 2018 defensive player in defensive end Xavier Thomas and the No. 1-rated senior defensive tackle in Taron Vincent, but Carol City’s players aren’t likely to be overly impressed.
Last season, Carol City led IMG 7-0 at the half of their preseason game, only to fall 17-7. The Chiefs, with rapper Rick Ross, a former Carol City player, on the sideline, went on to win the state 6A title and they return senior quarterback Marlon Smith (2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns passing) and senior running back Cam’ron Davis (820 yards and 13 touchdowns), who has committed to Miami. The defense is led by linebacker Yasir Abdullah, a Louisville commit.
If anything, new Carol City coach Benedick “Dub” Hyppolite, who came over from Hallandale, isn’t worried about having enough talent, but managing all that ability.
“Everybody thinks it’s the easiest thing coaching a talented group,” Hyppolite said. “You have different personalities to deal with. You have to have guys who you can trust and play out there when the lights are on.”
Hyppolite is only 27, but already has been a part of four state championship football teams. He helped Booker T. Washington (Miami) win a title in 2007 as a player and he was an assistant for the Tornadoes when they won three 4A state titles from 2010 to 2013. He was almost giddy to see how Carol City would fare against a high-profile program such as IMG.
“Like everybody else, we need experienced game reps,” Hyppolite said. “We do have experience on the defense and at some key positions. I think we are very explosive. We are physical and we play fast. If we execute on all cylinders, we can talk about winning at IMG. We’re not going there just to hang with them.”
IMG went 11-0 last season and finished No. 2 in the Super 25 final rankings. Ascenders coach Kevin Wright said, via text, that his team will use more players than it would during a regular-season game.
“For example, last year, we rotated series with our two quarterbacks, Kellen (Mond, now at Texas A&M) and Zack Annexstad (now an IMG senior) because we wanted to see how they played under pressure, and two, we wanted to get both game experience going into week one,” Wright said. “We will do that again this year at multiple positions. We also are less likely to play guys who are banged up but could play if it was a regular-season game. We play Chandler next week on ESPN, so like any preseason game, this is a chance to get a trial run-through.”
Hyppolite and Wright concur that this early in the season, the teams are more worried about their own execution than their opponents.
“I’m sure IMG will be well-coached,” Hyppolite said. “I can’t go into this game worried about them, just our team. I expect a lot from our team. The opportunity was there last year to defeat (IMG). Everybody is looking at this team to go in there and make a difference. There are a lot of question marks about what kind of team will will have. Can this guy coach, can he live up to expectations.”
Wright said the key will be eliminating first-game errors.
“Lining up correctly, executing with great technique, limit turnovers and penalties,” he said. “It is all different when the lights go on Friday night and those are the things that tend to win or lose games early.”
This week’s Super 25 football schedule
No. 5 St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) vs. Dillard (Fort Lauderdale) in a preseason game).
No. 18 Miami Central vs. Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens) in a preseason game.
No. 13 East, Salt Lake City at Timpview (Provo).
No. 2 IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) vs. then-No. 20 Carol City (Miami Gardens) in a preseason game.
No. 11 Booker T. Washington (Miami) vs. American Heritage (Plantation) in a preseason game.
No. 12 South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.) vs. Northwestern (Rock Hill).
No. 15 Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.) vs. Hillsboro (Nashville).
No. 22 Ben Davis (Indianapolis) at Arsenal Tech (Indianapolis).
No. 25 Pearl, Miss., at Brookhaven, Miss.
No. 7 Chandler, Ariz. vs. Red Mountain (Mesa)