AVON PARK – Six straight seasons the Avon Park Red Devils High School football team has made it to the state playoffs.

Late summer marks the start of the new season for each team. Cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning in the afternoon as well as the sounds of whistles and football pads mark the new beginning.

With two dozen players currently on the varsity roster wearing red on the practice field and with eight junior varsity players wearing white, enthusiasm of the players and coaches was remarkably high in the sweltering heat.

Avon Park looks to retain a solid defense as their middle linebacker Hunter Vanderpool is returning into a position that he started to blossom in towards the end of the season last year. The Red Devils will also have the majority of their defensive line back in place.

The offense will have most of the line returning, but that is about it as last year’s backfield; running backs and quarterback as well as the core receivers have moved on to life past high school.

It is this reason that Avon Park Head Coach Jerry Hudnell has changed the offense from a spread to a Wing-T offense.

“I think it works with what we have now,” said Hudnell. “And it has been a formula of success for me over the years.”

Running the offense this year is sophomore Stanley Holdman.

“Stanley is getting kind of used to this,” stated Hudnell. “He never played quarterback before, was more of a running back, he has not quite caught on to it yet, but give him time.”

As for the defense, Hudnell relies on his defensive coaches to handle the schemes.

“The defense I stay away from,” added Hudnell. “I concentrate on the offense and make mental notes about the defense that I will discuss with the defense coaches afterward.”

As for the new playoff format, which not only takes account of your opponent’s record, but their opponent’s opponent’s record one game removed.

Though Hudnell seems to think that the new format is a plus and forces teams to actually play a schedule, he stated that he is more focused in just getting the young guys on his team to the playoffs in his second season at Avon Park, that is the goal.

Avon Park plays its Kickoff Classic at home on Friday night. The game starts at 7:30 at Joe Franza Stadium.

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