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Lemon Bay ended last year with just 19 players on its junior varsity team, casting some doubt in the future of that program. The newly passed six-quarter rule alleviates some of those worries.

By the time the high school football season was winding down this past fall, Lemon Bay had just 19 healthy bodies left to play for its junior varsity team.

Considering there are 22 positions to play — not including special teams — that meant several Mantas would never leave the field.

“We were very worried about our JV team,” Lemon Bay football coach Don Southwell said. “It never got to more than discussions, but it was a reality we had to discuss and make plans for if we had to.”

Situations like these is what prompted the Florida High School Athletic Association to pass the six-quarter rule earlier this week.

Florida was one of just nine state that didn’t use this rule, instead limiting football players to just one game per week.

While one game per week makes sense in a hot and humid state such as Florida, the six-quarter rule will allow for many schools to bolster their depth and avoid overworking players.

“I think the true nature of that rule is to help schools like Lemon Bay,” Southwell said. “I’m excited about it. I see it as schools in our situation now won’t have to decide between having a JV team or not.”

It’s not as if teams like Lemon Bay will bring their entire junior varsity roster up for Friday nights, but the ability for those players to contribute will allow for injury depth that wasn’t possible before.

Other area teams such as North Port anticipate using this new rule to its advantage as well.

While it may be too much to ask for an offensive lineman or a linebacker to play six quarters in one week, it might not be too much to ask out of a skill player such as a kicker or a quarterback.

“I think we can take advantage of it with some backups,” North Port football coach Billy Huthman said. “But the thing is, JV players play on Thursday nights so I’m gonna be really cautious with that. I don’t want to overplay anyone and I don’t want to rush any kids who aren’t ready for it.”

The way Huthman sees it, this new rule will allow for players like a backup quarterback to get in reps at the JV level while still being available to play on Friday nights in case of injury.

The ability to move players from varsity to junior varsity could give the program enough depth to explore adding a freshman team, a move Huthman said he’s been thinking of making for some time.

While this rule serves to benefit just about everyone, many teams like the Venice Indians shouldn’t have much need for it.

Venice has fielded full freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams for the past several years. Despite not needing the extra depth, it could help the Indians’ younger teams keep a full schedule.

“It doesn’t really affect us other than the fact that we’ve had a lot of cancellations from other teams with our freshman and JV teams,” Venice coach John Peacock said. “So hopefully this will alleviate some of that.”

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