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Spring swing football: Lee expects to compete for a state title

General lost in regional finals in 2018

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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 Lee. 

Raines has done it. Mandarin has done it. Why not Lee?

Last season Raines and Mandarin brought state titles home to the First Coast. They’re currently the only two Duval county public schools to win a state championship in football. Lee would like to add their name to the list. 

In 2018, the Generals fell in the regional finals. In 2016, they lost in the Class 7A state semifinals. 

“It’s about getting better each year,” said Lee head coach O.J. Small. “Just to get over that hump, I want to join the only schools to ever do it in Duval County (Raines and Mandarin). I want to be a part of that of that group. They’re doing their thing over there. They’ve given us some great competition. In our division and our class, I want to see if we can take it all the way. I really think we can do it.”

Getting back to competing at a state title level will be no easy task for the generals in 2019. On national signing day, Lee had six players sign to play college football. Another three players were undecided at the time. That’s a ton of talent to replace. 

“Everybody thinks because we lost a couple of players that we’re not going to be the same team,” said senior defensive end/tight end Ralph Mency. “Trust me. We might be even better.”

His head coach agrees.  

“We graduated a few great players last year,” said Small. “We’ve definitely got some key losses. But at the same time, I like the work that this class is doing right now. It’s their opportunity and their time to step up if they take advantage of it.”

The 2019 state championship is seven months away. All the hard work that it takes to get there starts right now. 

“We’re looking to get unity,” said Small. “The kids have shown growth and are coming out here working hard every day. I like what I see thus far. I’ve seen leadership. I’ve seen them be consistent so far. Honestly, this has been one of the better springs I have had so far.”

Mency has been part of some of the recent Lee teams that have come up short of their ultimate goal. He knows time is running out. 

“It really drives me,” said Mency. “This is my senior year, so I’ve got to lead this team this year. It’s my last go round so I got to get it. Got to go.”

Lee 2019 high school football schedule

Aug. 23, Lee at Bartram Trail

Aug. 30, Lee at West Nassau

Sept. 7, Raines at Lee, 2 p.m.

Sept. 13, Lee at Ribault, 6 p.m.

Sept. 20, Lee at Mandarin

Sept. 27, Middleburg at Lee*

Oct. 4, OFF

Oct. 11, Columbia at Lee*

Oct. 17, Lee at Trinity Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 24, Gainesville at Lee*

Oct. 31, Lee at White

* Indicates district game

All games at 7 p.m. unless indicated