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Spring swing football: First Coast focused on momentum in 2019

Buccaneers showed potential last year, eye big step forward

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – NewsJax’s high school football Spring Swing continues daily throughout spring practice across the First Coast. Today, we’ll take a quick look at First Coast High School. 

For the first time in a long time, the momentum is carrying the First Coast football team in the right direction — forward. 

It begins with the small things, said Buccaneers coach Marty Lee, which optimistically, will lead to bigger ones. 

“We’ve got over 25 kids benching 300 pounds, we haven’t been that way in a long time,” he said. “Give our offseason program a lot of credit. So were excited. But we’ve still got a long way to go. It’s just spring.”

The Buccaneers have had a turbulent time since their last celebrated season in 2014, the final season of record-setting quarterback De’Andre Johnson’s career that ended with a trip to the third round of the state playoffs. 

First Coast won two games the following season, a year that was preceded by an April 2015 shooting at a house party of Buccaneers player Johnnel Johnson. Lee said that the loss of a young person was traumatic enough, but the rumors and negativity after it cast an unflattering shadow across the program as a whole.  

Players left. There were suggestions that it wasn’t safe. 

“People used it against us,” Lee said of that time period. 

The Buccaneers have come through that period and begun to turn the corner. While the 4-5 record didn’t reflect it in 2018, the product on the field did. First Coast beat playoff team Baker County (13-0), and stretched both Columbia and Lee in games decided by a combined 18 points.

“It’s discipline and commitment and it’s not just on the field, it’s in the community, it’s in the classroom you’ve got to do it all,” Lee said. “If you want to go to that next level, you have to make that commitment and these kids are doing it and buying into it. They didn’t listen to, ‘Hey, now you can transfer where you want.’ They wanted to stay and be a Buc, and I think we have a very good chance to be very good next year.” 

Quarterback Larry Edwards took the bulk of the snaps under center last season and returns to the Buccaneers. He started as a freshman for First Coast, and is in position to join a short list of players at the school to potentially be a four-year starting quarterback. 

The others? Reggie Lewis, Daniel Jones and Johnson, all of whom were major college signees.

Edwards has a major target to get the ball to as well in receiver Tyree Saunders, one of the Buccaneers’ biggest recruits since the blockbuster Class of 2015. He had 13 touchdown catches last season and said that momentum from 2018 is all about picking up where they left off. The potential is there. They saw it last year. 

“Once we got together and everything started clicking, quarterback throwing good balls, we were making good plays as a receivers group, defense was stepping up, we were coming more together,” Saunders said. “We just did it a little too late at the end. But I feel real good about it this year.”

First Coast 2019 football schedule

Aug. 23, White at First Coast

Aug. 30, First Coast at Parker

Sept. 6, Palm Bay Heritage at First Coast

Sept. 13, First Coast at Creekside*

Sept. 20, TBA

Sept. 27, Gainesville Buchholz at First Coast*

Oct. 4 TBA

Oct. 11, Fleming Island at First Coast

Oct. 17, Atlantic Coast at First Coast*

Oct. 25, First Coast at Fletcher*

Nov. 1, Jackson at First Coast

* Indicates district games

Games at 7 p.m. unless indicated
 


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.