JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Spring football is in full swing and the News4Jax sports team is making stops at high schools across the area in its annual Spring Swing tour.
Matt Toblin loves being back out on the football field at this time of year.
“I think spring football is awesome for coaches, 20 days in a row of just hitting and tackling and blocking. For players, sometimes it’s rough, but it’s been good,” Toblin said. “We’ve had ups and downs, but we’re excited for the opportunity, last year not getting spring ball, it’s been awesome.”
In his first spring in 2019, Bolles had 27 players out at spring practice, and Toblin was forced to work at cornerback due to the limited number of players.
Things have evolved in a short time for Toblin at Bolles. Now entering his third season at the state’s most successful program, the expectations have remained. Despite the younger team and smaller roster in 2019, Bolles still reached the state championship game.
It lost in agonizing fashion to Miami’s Booker T. Washington, watching an 11-point halftime lead evaporate in the second half during a 25-21 loss.
Last year, there was no spring practice due to the pandemic, but Bolles reached the state championship game again and lost to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons, 35-21. Those goals of playing for a state championship aren’t going anywhere. Bolles has 11 state championships, 10 of those under iconic coach Corky Rogers.
“That’s always the goal here, you don’t have a year where you go like, ‘oh well, we won one, so let’s relax.’ And so, I mean it’s going to be, it’s always a constant thing here,” Toblin said.
The spring goal for the Bolles coaching staff — find some candidates to fill the holes.
“We don’t talk about filling shoes. No one is going to replace [receiver] Davis Ellis or [quarterback] Gunner Boree. We don’t replace them. Someone else will line up in their position, but no one else is going to be them, they were more than just statistics to us,” Toblin said. “And so we’ll have some other people play those positions and like look, they got a long way to go. And the good news is they don’t have to be those people.”
Bolles has a good bit of talent returning. It starts on offense with running back Kade Frew, one of the area’s best backs. Frew rushed for a career-best 1,496 yards and 17 TDs last season.
On defense, Bolles has two very important pieces of its front seven back. Defensive lineman Hayden Schwartz (68 tackles, 14 TFL) and linebacker Jack Pyburn (121 tackles, 17 TFL) are back to anchor that side of the ball. In the secondary, cornerback Kavon Miller had three picks last season and is the team’s third-leading returning tackler. Another starter at corner, DJ Johnson, is also back.
Toblin said that he expects veterans like that to continue to take a step forward.
“That’s what you’re looking for from your guys, like not only do your job, but you remove the pressure from other people,” Toblin said.
Bolles 2021 football schedule
Aug. 27, West Nassau at Bolles
Sept. 3, Bolles at Columbia
Sept. 10, St. Augustine at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 17, Bolles at Fernandina Beach
Sept. 24, University Christian at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 1, Trinity Christian at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 8, Bolles at Atlanta Marist
Oct. 15, OFF
Oct. 22, Bolles at Gainesville Buchholz
Oct. 29, Fort Pierce Westwood at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 5, Daytona Beach Mainland at Bolles, 7:30 p.m.