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Spring swing ’21: New staff, new focus at Middleburg this season

Middleburg quarterback Luke Padgett works out during a spring football weightroom session on May 28.
Middleburg quarterback Luke Padgett works out during a spring football weightroom session on May 28. (News4Jax)

MIDDLEBURG, 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.

It doesn’t take long to spot the difference around the Middleburg football team.

The word around the Broncos is mentioned multiple times by several different players.

Accountability.

A new coaching staff at Middleburg High has made that word the theme of the rebuilding of the Broncos. And coming off an 0-10 season, there’s plenty of room to grow to regain football footing in Clay County and catch up to the likes of Clay, Fleming Island and Oakleaf.

“It’s challenging, but it’s also motivating because we know that we can be up on that level [of those teams],” said two-way lineman Tanner Peery. “And that’s where we want to be, and maybe even higher.”

First-year head coach Ryan Wolfe knows the area well. He’s been coaching in assistant and coordinator roles since 2003, including on some of the high-powered Clay High teams in the early and mid-2010s. He put together a staff with heavy area ties — Ben Traywick, Spencer Johnson, Carl Nesmith from Fleming Island and Kareem Russell from Ridgeview — to help rebuild a program that has lagged in recent years.

Wolfe’s vision for the program — get the players to invest in it and build something special.

“These kids ain’t scared of work, that was kind of nice coming in,” Wolfe said. “I didn’t have to instill work ethic with these guys because they were ready to work and they were ready to win.”

Peery said his biggest takeaway as spring winds down is ownership of the program and holding teammates and themselves to a higher standard than ever.

“The biggest thing is learning to be accountable and holding everyone accountable for their actions on and off the field,” he said.

Defensive end Donovan Wimberly mentions that word right off the bat, saying that players have been working on that aspect of building a program just as much as they have in the weight room.

“Accountability. We have to hold each other accountable,” he said. “Not everybody wants to be accountable but it’s our job to hold them accountable.”

For Wolfe, that’s what he wants from Middleburg players. The more pride and ownership that they have in the program, the more players will be invested in it.

“They bought in pretty quick and they want to win and they want to work hard. So it really wasn’t that hard. All those years that I played against Middleburg you always walked off the field and see how hard those kids played,” he said. “So we were able to take that work ethic that they already had and just kind of put in our offensive, defensive philosophies and kind of the way we practice and the way we’re going to do things.”

Quarterback Luke Padgett said that the change has already started. Middleburg won its spring game over Keystone Heights, 21-0. Those expecting to see the same old Broncos this fall are in for a surprise.

“This is a new team, new coaching staff, so anybody that has anything to say is in the wrong because this a new team,” he said. “And we just came out and got our first win [in spring] so there’s not much that other teams can say about us right now.”

Middleburg 2021 football schedule

Aug. 20, Middleburg at Fort White

Aug. 27, Stanton at Middleburg

Sept. 3, Gainesville Eastside at Middleburg

Sept. 10, Middleburg at Santa Fe

Sept. 17, St. Augustine at Middleburg*

Sept. 24, OFF

Oct. 1, Matanzas at Middleburg*

Oct. 8, Episcopal at Middleburg

Oct. 15, Middleburg at Gainesville*

Oct. 22, Middleburg at Clay

Oct. 29, Middleburg at Ridgeview*

Nov. 5, Yulee at Middleburg

* Indicates district game


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.