GLEN ST. MARY, 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 Baker County.
The tradition doesn’t change. Baker County has one of the most passionate football fanbases around.
Three straight seasons of playoff football have kept that tradition and passion thundering along and new coach Kevin Mays can’t wait to experience that come fall.
He’s heard about the Friday nights in Glen St. Mary and expects to have a pretty good football team on the field.
“There’s a work ethic that’s been instilled in these kids out here and it’s a pleasure to be around,” he said.
The Wildcats were excellent under coach Jamie Rodgers, going 29-9 over the past three seasons.
Baker County reached the state playoffs in each, including a 13-2, state runner-up finish in 2017.
The challenges are there, though.
The Wildcats graduated nearly two dozen players, have little starting experience on the offensive line and need receivers to develop. Quarterback Alex Bowen, who missed Baker County’s two playoff games due to injuries from a car accident, is back healthy under center and said the Wildcats are prepared for players to move into roles and perform.
“You lose guys every year. He [Mays] brings the intensity. Some guys are stepping up in big spots, so it’s good for us,” Bowen said. “They’re [expectations] pretty high. Last year we had a pretty good season and we’ve got some ballers out here so expectations are pretty high.”
Mays has lunged right in to the process with Baker County.
“It’s been full speed trying to implement some stuff,” he said. “The great thing about here is kids have bought in to everything I’ve said. It’s been an easy transition. They have a lot of tradition. Coaches that were here were good guys. They left a good group of guys here and they’ve bought in to what I’m doing.”
Mays did excellent work during his time at Viera, inheriting a young and struggling program that had never won more than three games in a season and taking the Hawks to the 7A state championship game in 2015.
He was 51-27 in seven seasons there before stepping down to become the athletic director at Tohopokeliga High School, a new school that opened last year in Osceola County. Mays said he missed being on the sidelines.
Now, he’s in one of the most passionate football counties around.
“I don’t want to compare the two, but Viera had a very similar feel to this. Even though it was a bigger area, it was still kind of in a bubble, still felt like a small town,” Mays said. “You come up here and everybody’s excited about football and wanting to be a part of it. Support’s great from the school to the community to everybody. It hasn’t been much of an adjustment, to be honest.”
Baker County 2019 football schedule
Aug. 23, Baker County at Bradford, 7:30
Aug. 30, Gainesville at Baker County
Sept. 6, Orange Park at Baker County
Sept. 13, Baker County at White*
Sept. 20, Baker County at Suwannee, 7:30
Sept. 27, Westside at Baker County*
Oct. 4, Parker at Baker County*
Oct. 11, OFF
Oct. 18, West Nassau at Baker County
Oct. 25, Baker County at Bishop Kenny*
Nov. 1, Baker County at Tallahassee Rickards
* Indicates district game
All games 7 p.m. unless indicated