If the Coral Shores High football team wants to remain in the hunt for the Florida Independent Athletic Conference championship, beating Everglades Prep at home, the final conference game of the Hurricanes’ schedule, is not an option.
Instead, the Hurricanes must obliterate the Panthers, potentially garnering a fourth shutout of the season being the best option for the ‘Canes, if they hope to claim the fourth and final seed in the FIAC championship bracket.
“The way we see it is that Everglades Prep is 1-0 and we are 1-1, so we have to have this win to move ahead of them in the standings,” said Coral Shores coach Ed Holly, whose team is coming off a 35-0 trouncing on Sunset, a team that defeated Everglades Prep 29-16, as well as the Hurricanes beating on Palm Glades Prep, 48-0, whom the Panthers beat 35-6 just last week.
Add homecoming on top of the regular-season conference finale, and Holly stressed it can be a really special night for his players.
“Homecoming always brings a set of new challenges, a lot of great school spirit, with parades, powered puff and then the dance afterward, but that’s just part of the high school experience,” said the Hurricanes coach. “We have talked to our guys about how to handle it correctly, that we want to build up to the game and have a great game, but how we handle all the distractions will determine how successful we will be on Friday night, in order to remain in the hunt for the championship.”
The reason the contest carries so much importance, for Coral Shores is that its lone loss of the season came against FIAC Divison rival Palmer Trinity, meaning the Falcons have the inside track on the automatic bye for the division winner with the fourth and final seed in the championship bracket determined by record and points allowed.
“Bottom line is we have to be successful on defense so that point differential will be huge for us,” said Holly, as his team has already triumphed against division foe Palm Glades Prep, 48-0, two weeks ago and have also scored shutouts against Varela and Sunset last week. “If you go into the game, trying to get a shutout, it never works. You have to stick with the game plan and the plays will start to build on each other and if we play well enough, which we expect to do because we had a great week of practice, then the scoreboard will take care of itself.”
A major component to the defense success for the Hurricanes this season has been its front line, which consists of senior tackles Xayver Arrington, Johnny Holly, junior end Isaac Holmes and newly moved Victor Franchini, who has thrived at the position since being switched.
“Xay is obviously the leader of that front and has done a great job with Johnny in the interior of that line, but Isaac, coming off the end, is a very special player who puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback, so really we were searching for that other defensive end,” said Holly. “We tried a few guys there, but Victor has really come on and given us a spark on that defensive front, which makes it a lot easier to play linebacker.”
While Holly is proud of the defensive line, the coach is not set to call it the most valuable part of the defense, as he also credits the play of the Hurricane’s secondary this season, especially Derek Smith and Dantay Diorio.
“They have done a tremendous job of understanding our coverage adjustment and where we want them to be,” said Holly. “We just want to make sure we don’t want to give up that big play because just like any time, they have some guys who are very athletic and can take it to the house. So the best way to cover is to get pressure on the quarterback.”
The game plan has also worked on offense for Coral Shores, outscoring its opponents 138-19 on the campaign, with Chuck Holly leading the way with just less than 400 yards via the ground attack.
“The great part bout it is that the offense is not built around just one player,” said Holly. “It’s about spreading the wealth and getting the ball in the open field. Basically, we want to get the ball in our athletes’ hands on the ball in open space and they are starting to understand the concept.”
Despite needing to play a flawless game in order to remain in the championship hunt, the Coral Shores players will partake in the pre-game homecoming parade and even some of the halftime festivities, which will be extended as the school crowns a king and queen during the break, and Holly is just hoping they can all stay focused.
“How well we can transition from getting ready for a football game to being in the parade and festivities at halftime, then getting back and honing in on what we do will be the key to success on Friday night,” said Holly.