Missing playoffs for first time in eight years, Gainesville looks to bounce back in 2017

COACH: Mark Latsko, 5th season

2016 RECORD: 5-4 (missed playoffs first time since 2008)

DISTRICT: 5-6A

QUOTABLE: “The kids know that (missing playoffs) is unacceptable and they have treated the offseason, the summer conditioning and the first couple of days of practice kind of with a chip on their shoulders. They know we have to get after it and bounce back.” - Mark Latsko

STAR WATCH: Junior QB Luke Matthews (1,391 yards, 62 percent completion, 12 TDs in 8 games), a 2016 first team all-area selection; junior SS D’verik Daniel (first team all-area as sophomore playing three defensive positions); senior RB Willie McKnight; senior RB Moon Bryant; senior DL Donnie Wilburn; senior ATH Jawan Lee; senior LB/TE Joey Zeilman

NEW FACES: ATH Julien Cromwell, ATH Niles Cromwell, both transfers from Santa Fe

BEST CASE: Gainesville serves notice with a season-opening win at Columbia and are 4-0 heading to first district showdown at Ocala Forest; a win there would carry on to a likely city-title game against Buchholz with district favorite Vanguard coming to Citizens Field on Oct. 13 with the league title on line.

WORST CASE: A stumble in Lake City in the opener won’t hurt the season, but road losses at North Marion and at Forest would put GHS 2-3 heading to back-to-back games with rivals Buchholz and Vanguard looming.

PREDICTION: District champions clinch playoff berths, but district runners-up don’t necessarily, so wins against good teams matter in the new playoff points system. The ‘Canes will get some big wins and should contend for the league title. An 8-2 record is possible but 7-3 more likely with a playoff berth.

WHERE GAINESVILLE RANKS: The Hurricanes rank 3rd among 21 area teams in The Sun’s preseason poll.

 

2017 SCHEDULE

(all games at 7:30 p.m., unless #, which means 7 p.m.)

Aug. 25   at Columbia

Sept. 1    at Santa Fe  

Sept. 8    Idle

Sept. 15  *Lake Weir  

Sept. 22  at North Marion

Sept. 29  *at Forest#

Oct. 5       Buchholz

Oct. 13     *Vanguard

Oct. 20     *at Leesburg#

Oct. 26     *South Lake

Nov. 3       Eastside

*District games

All home games at Citizens Field