JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There was plenty of new at Bolles as the Bulldogs opened spring practice Tuesday, including a new district — the Bulldogs were reclassified from 5A to 4A — and a new coach. Matt Toblin brought some serious energy to his first practice since taking the job in March.
Just minutes into the first spring practice, Toblin huddled the team up on the Bolles practice field and set the tone, explaining to the players what he expects out of them.
"We want to be the hardest working team in America, that smiles every minute we are at practice," Toblin said. "This is a game we enjoy and it's fun, but we're going to work."
Toblin admitted that he always has a smile on his face, even when delivering bad news. "I can't help it," he said.
Toblin is following in the footsteps of Corky Rogers and his longtime assistant Wayne Belger. This will be the first year since the 1980s that somebody other than Rogers or Belger is the head man at Bolles. Some of the Bolles assistants have stayed, but there are some new faces on the staff as well, which means that spring practice is as much about learning about each other as it is about coaching football.
"We have a lot of excellent coaches who have decided to stay. We're fortunate to have so many guys with experience at Bolles retained," Toblin said. "It's not just about the players getting to know how to do things, but it's also us getting used to each other and learning how we want practice to go."
With the Bulldogs likely to run a different offense under Toblin-who favored a spread attack at his previous job at Ponte Vedra-he had to decide whether to start installing an offense at this point in the year. His experience told him to start with the basics.
"If we wanted to teach ball plays, we wouldn't be teaching how to play football," Toblin said. "You have a choice, you can teach ball plays, or you can teach football. We're doing minimal install, minimal schematic stuff. We can do that in the summer. Right now, we're learning how to play football."
The Bulldogs are coming off a season that saw its ups and downs. After a 6-4 regular season, the Bulldogs won a pair of playoff games on the road, including a 30-27 win over West Florida in Pensacola and a 32-27 victory at Tallahassee Godby. The season came to an end in a 34-7 loss to Trinity Christian in the 5A quarterfinals. After the 8-5 season, Belger made the decision to retire after 30 years at the school. With Bolles reclassified to 3A, the competition shouldn't be as challenging, but the Bulldogs' schedule has some heavyweights, including a season opener at home against University Christian, a matchup with St. Augustine and, interestingly, a game against Clay, that saw their head coach, Josh Hoekstra, leave the school to join Toblin's staff at Bolles.
The Bulldogs lost two impact players from the 2019 season with the graduation of wide receiver Chris Sanders, who signed with Florida A&M, and offensive lineman Pearson Toomey, who will play for Furman. Bolles will return Ben Netting at quarterback. The senior-to-be tossed 21 touchdowns in 2019 while being intercepted only five times. He has already received an offer from Southern Miss,
Bolles 2019 football schedule
Aug. 23, University Christian at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 30, Hialeah-Miami Lakes at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6, Bolles at Savannah New Hampstead, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13, St. Augustine at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20, Bolles at Creekside, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27, Bolles at Palatka, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4, Bolles at Melbourne Central Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11, OFF
Oct. 18, Clay at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25, John Carroll Catholic at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1, Bolles at Daytona Beach Mainland, 7 p.m.