JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Even for Trinity Christian, it’s a daunting task.
The Conquerors football schedule is quite possibly the most challenging ever for a First Coast-area team.
Take a look.
The Conquerors have nine of a possible 10 games scheduled.
Nine teams. Nine state playoff opponents. Two who finished 2018 ranked in the top 25 nationally.
Seven of those programs have won state championships, six of them since 2012.
For Trinity Christian coach Verlon Dorminey, entering his 29th year as head coach with a 279-69 career record, it’s as challenging, on paper, as any schedule that he’s been a part of.
“We’ve had some tough schedules but nothing like this,” he said. “It’s going to be trying it really is. We were laughing [at a coaches dinner], we legitimately could have a losing season this year because they’re really, really good. All of them are good. It’s no easy trail that’s for sure.”
Why such a demanding schedule in 2019?
When the Florida High School Athletic Association went through its reclassification cycle, it kept teams slotted according to their enrollment size. As there had been in the past, there were no opportunities to appeal placement.
The FHSAA said that its membership preferred teams to stay where they were from an enrollment standpoint, so teams like Bolles and Trinity, which both petitioned and played up in classification the last two years, were slotted into 4A and 3A, respectively.
With no districts in Class 4A and below, that means teams have to put together a 10-game schedule.
“A lot of it is desperation, you know, because the rules say you’ve got to have eight games into the playoffs,” Dorminey said. “Luckily for us, Raines Ribault and Lee in the area want to play, so that’s great. That helps us and they’re great programs. A lot of it is desperation [trying to fill out a schedule].”
When the Conquerors added their ninth game of the schedule this week, Georgia 7A powerhouse Colquitt County, it took an already rugged schedule and put a bow on top of it.
It also made Dorminey laugh.
“We’re Colquitt’s homecoming,” Dorminey said. “My first year back  I think we were everybody’s homecoming game, even Week 1.”
Few teams from north Florida have ventured into Georgia in recent years and challenged a true Peach State heavyweight. A Derrick Henry-led Yulee visited Buford in 2011. Trinity visited Buford in in 2014. Bartram Trail faced Cartersville in 2017. All three local teams lost in games that were shown on national TV.
The Conquerors will face the Packers, a three-time state champion, before a closing stretch that includes Lee and two-time defending 4A champion Raines. And there's still one more slot left open on the schedule, too.
Trinity knows that a challenging schedule could mean a different look, record-wise, come playoff time.
“That was said, when we finished our morning workouts last Thursday that was said,” Dorminey said of a few losses in the regular season. “Coach [Gerard] Ross said, ‘look, had a great first morning, but let’s talk about what’s ahead of us.’ And we very well could be in a situation where we lose more games we have in the past several years.”
With four-star defensive backs Fred Davis and Miles Brooks headlining the defense, and quarterback Jacory Jordan and the entire offensive line returning, Dorminey said it’s an excellent measuring stick for players and coaches. They all want to be challenged.
“That’s part of scheduling this thing, too. If you’re getting recruited by Clemson, then you ought to be able to play like that," he said. "If you’re committed to Georgia Tech you ought to be that good.”
Trinity 2019 schedule
Date, Game, 2018 record, Notable
Aug. 23 at Columbia: 10-2, Class 7A regional semifinalist; one-time state champ
Aug. 30 at Tallahassee Godby: 11-1, Class 5A regional semifinalist; 4-time state champ
Sept. 6 Ribault: 5-6, Class 5A regional quarterfinalist
Sept. 13 Plantation American Heritage: 10-2, Class 5A state semifinalist; 4-time state champ
Sept. 20 Miami Carol City: 9-3, Class 6A regional semifinalist, finished ranked 12th in country in final MaxPreps Xcellent 25 poll; 5-time state champ
Sept. 27 OFF
Oct. 3 at Miami Booker T. Washington: 5-6, Class 4A regional semifinalist; 5-time state champ
Oct. 11 at Colquitt County, Ga.: 14-1, Class 7A state runner-up, ranked 25th in country in final MaxPreps Xcellent 25 poll
Oct. 17 Lee: 10-2, Class 7A regional finalist
Oct. 25 at Raines: 13-1, two-time defending Class 4A state champ; 3 titles overall
Nov. 1 OFF
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