Friday night lights

Published 9:32 pm Friday, July 26, 2013

The Northview High School Chiefs’ football team might be coming off a 1A Florida state championship, but their road to repeat the feat isn’t easy.

First of all the team that finished with a record of 11-3 is losing key players, like quarterback Kevin Vaughan and Neiko Robinson, among others.

However, coach Sid Wheatley believes last year’s backup at the quarterback position, Daulton Tullis will fill Vaughan’s shoes effectively.

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Wheatley noted that the Chiefs’ secondary returns many experienced players, like Neino Robinson, Brannon Freeman and Cameron Newsome.

The schedule for the defending champions is tough, Wheatley said. It includes games against 5A Bay High School, 4A Mariana, 4A Walton and 6A Choctawhatchee.

Bay went 3-7 last season under head coach Jimmy Longerbeam. Marianna had some success last season going 8-2, but have a new coach this year. Walton went 4-6 on the year and Choctawhatchee went 3-7.

Northview opens with Bay and travels to Marianna on Sept. 6. They host Choctawhatchee on Sept. 27 and travel to Walton on Oct. 25.

The road next season is no easier for Escambia County High School as coach Lev Holly has dubbed their region as the “SEC of 4A.”

The teams joining ECHS in Class 4A Region 1 are Clarke County, UMS-Wright, Thomasville, Monroe County, Hillcrest-Evergreen, Andalusia and Wilcox-Central.

The Blue Devils are coming off a 3-7 season during Holly’s first year. Clarke County finished 6-5, which was its best record in four years. UMS-Wright finished 13-2 with a state championship under coach Terry Curtis.

Thomasville went 8-3 last season after a 10-2 campaign in 2011 and an undefeated state championship season in 2010 for coach Jack Hankins. Monroe County went 4-6 last season.

Hillcrest-Evergreen finished the 2012 season with a 2-9 record. Andalusia with coach Brian Seymore went 6-5 last season, while Wilcox-Central went winless.

EA also has a tough schedule, according to Cougars second-year coach Hugh Fountain, and the team can’t afford a slow start like it had last year.

EA dropped the first three games of the season before bouncing back to a 6-5 record and a playoff berth.

The strength of the Cougars’ schedule may reside in the first three games this year with contests against Fort Dale Academy in Greenville, Hooper Academy and Monroe Academy in Monroeville. Those teams finished first, second and third in AISA 3A competition last year, Fountain said previously.

Monroe Academy finished 10-2 last season, while Fort Dale finished 8-4 under coach James Sampley and Hooper finished 5-7 last season under coach Zach Golson.