Spring swing football: Oakleaf loaded with potential, expectations

Knights bring back 16 starters as they move up to 8A

ORANGE PARK,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 Oakleaf.

Oakleaf had a bitter end to its football season last year.

That doesn’t figure to be the case in 2019 if the Knights play to their potential, which, is, by the way, immense. 

“We’re going to have to beat good teams to be where we want to be at the end of the season, but as far as what we have, I think the sky’s the limit for guys who want to buy in and do their takes,” said Oakleaf coach Frank Garis. 

How last year ended was agonizing, a triple overtime playoff loss to Tallahassee Lincoln. The positives are that the Knights bring back a massive amount of talent on both sides of the ball and should be well-prepared for their move into District 1-8A with the likes of Bartram Trail, defending state champion Mandarin, Nease and Sandalwood. 

The Knights bring back a two-year starter at quarterback in Tre Simmons III, who improved significantly from his freshman to his sophomore season. 

They have the area’s top-rated recruit by one scouting service, ESPN, in offensive tackle Jalen Rivers. He’s ESPN’s No. 2-ranked player in Florida. The main player he works on blocking, end Chantz Williams, is ESPN’s ninth-best prospect in the state and a national top 58 player. 

As Williams said, and Garis echoes, “iron sharpens iron,” and seeing that type of talent on a daily basis benefits the Knights. 

“Great competition,” Rivers said of Williams. “Just making me better and that’s all we need. I can’t ask for anything more. I thank him for that, too.”

The change for the Knights is finding the offense that running back Keshawn King, a three-year starter, had provided. The Virginia Tech signee rushed for 4,834 yards and 62 touchdowns in his career. More of that offensive responsibility should come from Simmons and an experienced group of receivers. 

“We definitely don’t want it to end how it did like it did last season, we keep reminding everybody of that,” Williams said. “We know that next year we will be playing for a state championship.”

Garis said that Oakleaf doesn’t worry about what happened last year or even last week, every day is a new one. But he likes the personnel and the mindset that they bring to practice. 

“I think we’re bringing back nine starters on offense and seven on defense and we act like they’ve never played football before,” Garis said. “Obviously, we can move a little bit faster with some install and the kids who’ve played before, but we still treat it like its day 1.”

Oakleaf 2019 football schedule

Aug. 23, Oakleaf at Orange Park

Aug. 30, Columbia at Oakleaf

Sept. 6, Oakleaf at Ridgeview

Sept. 13, Gainesville at Oakleaf

Sept. 20, White at Oakleaf

Sept. 27, Oakleaf at Sandalwood*

Oct. 4, OFF

Oct. 11 Mandarin at Oakleaf*

Oct. 18, Bartram Trail at Oakleaf*

Oct. 25, Oakleaf at Nease*

Nov. 1, Oakleaf at Clay

* Indicates district game 

All games at 7 p.m.


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