Spring swing football: Talent is there for special season at Sandalwood

Saints know they have to execute to survive in rugged District 1-8A

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 Sandalwood.

Sandalwood doesn’t have to look too far for football motivation. 

Its biggest rival, Mandarin, won District 1-8A and went on to win the state championship. 

The Saints? They finished 7-3 last season and essentially missed the state playoffs by virtue of a 28-27 double overtime loss to Flagler Palm Coast. Agonizing. Sandalwood coach Adam Geis has seen those near-misses a few times in his career and knows that the difference between making the playoffs, or even winning a state title, often comes down one simple thing. 

Performing when it matters. 

“You got to execute. We’re not going to change anything,” Geis said. “I think our systems have always been pretty good; we’re always in the top offense and defense. It comes down to, just like everything else, making a catch, not putting the ball on the ground, making a key block. I think if you watched Mandarin in big games last year, they did that. They played together as a group. And if you can get those kids to do that you have a shot to win it all, even the last one.”

For a follow up to last season, Sandalwood returns one of the area’s most talented and prospect-heavy rosters on the First Coast with a target of winning its first district title since 2002. 

Talent won’t be a problem.

Quarterback Jeff Sims is a Florida State commit. Running back Kyjuan Herndon (Ole Miss) and receiver Javonte Kinsey are both highly recruited. Cornerbacks Jahquez Robinson (Alabama) and Derek Bermudez (Florida State) will push Trinity Christian’s duo of Fred Davis (Clemson) and Miles Brooks (Georgia Tech) as the area’s best. And those are just the 2020 guys. 

Winning a district title could prove to be more challenging this season than most seasons during Geis’ tenure. Mandarin remains the biggest hurdle, but out are the Volusia and Flagler county teams, replaced by area teams. 

Bartram Trail, Nease and Oakleaf join the Saints and Mustangs, taking 1-8A from one of the least-local districts to one of the most. After years of facing teams a good bus ride away, Sandalwood will be anchored in the area most of 2019. 

“You know, it’s just different teams,” Geis said. “Bartram’s a lot different than Deland is. Nease is going to be different than Spruce Creek was, so it’s just different. Don’t want to call them better, they’re just different. Deland’s pretty much always good. You got Mandarin in there and they’re the best right now, it’ll still be tough though.

“Much, much better from that [travel] standpoint. It’s going to be a much more fun district. It’s probably going to be a better district, but it’s definitely better from the travel standpoint.”

Sandalwood 2019 football schedule

Aug. 23, Sandalwood at Parker

Aug. 30, Sandalwood at Fletcher

Sept. 7, Ocala Vanguard at Sandalwood

Sept. 13, Sandalwood at Nease*

Sept. 20, Ribault at Sandalwood

Sept. 27, Oakleaf at Sandalwood*

Oct. 4, Sandalwood at Raines

Oct. 11, TBA

Oct. 18, Mandarin at Sandalwood*

Oct. 25, Bartram Trail at Sandalwood*

Nov. 1, TBA

* Indicates district game

All games at 7 p.m.