Palm Beach County high school football practices start on rainy Monday

Football season is underway in Palm Beach County — not even Mother Nature could stop it.

Most of the area’s 36 teams opened fall practice Monday, running drills through a steady rain that turned fields slick and muddy.

Teams will have three weeks of practice before playing preseason games, which are scheduled for Aug. 18. The regular season opens Aug. 25.

PHOTO GALLERY: First day of practice in Palm Beach County

At Wellington, 70 players dressed out for practice Monday, including the Wolverines’ new starter at quarterback. Senior Connor Rogers will take over for Ben Schmickle, who threw for more than 2,600 yards and 23 touchdowns last season.

Coach Tom Abel hopes for similar production out of Rogers. He is spending this week installing new plays as part of an offense that will throw about 80 percent of the time.

“We’ve been ver

y vanilla all summer long, even for spring,” Abel said. “And now we’re going back to all our crazy formations — pistol right, pistol left. We’re going to do a lot of window dressing, but we’ve still got a lot of the same plays. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Rogers will have plenty of receivers to work with this year — both in and out of the backfield — plus an offensive line that is the biggest Abel has had in his six seasons as head coach.

“We’re 280 (pounds) across the front line this year,” Abel said. “They’re some big boys. We’ve got some outstanding running backs. We’ve got all these kids that are going to do some wonderful things for us.”

Palm Beach Central: There were some new faces in the Broncos’ camp, including five-star defensive back Akeem Dent.

The FSU commit, who transferred from Pahokee in the offseason, is part of a big group of sophomores and juniors that are expected to see plenty of playing time this season.

“A lot of them will start, so it’s pretty exciting,” coach Tino Ierulli said.

Broncos’ players spent much of the summer working on their conditioning, building strength and watching film.

So much of Monday’s practice, slippery as it was, focused on play installation.

“We’re installing stuff that we spent time in the classroom with all summer,” Ierulli said. “We’re just getting them ready. They worked really hard this summer. They’re in great shape, strength and condition-wise. So we’re getting into the season now.”

Oxbridge Academy: Good luck to all quarterbacks who venture into the ThunderWolves’ stadium this season.

Oxbridge Academy returns arguably the deepest secondary in Palm Beach County, with several players vying for playing time at each spot.

“It’s competition,” junior defensive back Antavious Lane said. “I’m getting better every day because I’ve got to compete, I’ve got to work for my spot. Guys are trying to take your spot. Every time you come to practice, a guy is trying to take your spot, so you’ve just got to compete and do better.”

Lane was a first-team All-Area pick as a sophomore last year, and three of the top seniors in the county will join him. C.J. Smith (No. 2 on the Post’s Big Board), Keidron Smith (No. 5) and V’Lique Carter (No. 11) will all spend time alongside Lane in the secondary, as will seniors Jason McCleod (a Penn commit), Carlos Silencieux and others.

“Guys know if you take a day off, you’re going to get passed up,” ThunderWolves coach Brendan Kent said. “Keeps these guys on their toes.”

Oxbridge also returns key players on offense, including Silencieux at wide receiver, junior quarterback Gio Richardson and running back James Meeks.

“They’re a year older now,” Kent said about his running backs. “I want to see more than what I saw last year.”

Palm Beach Gardens: Billy Clark is entering his first season as the Gators’ head coach, and he is optimistic about his players.

“I tell everybody all the time: I wouldn’t trade our kids for anybody,” Clark said. “We’ve got some of the best — I think we’ve got some phenomenal athletes — but I think we have some of the best men around.”

Palm Beach Gardens once again boasts top defensive players, with Jarrett Jackson (No. 6 on the Big Board) returning to the defensive line and safeties Gurvan Hall (No. 1) and De’Quan Walker (No. 14) transferring in.

The question for Gardens will be its offense. The Gators graduated All-Area honorable mention quarterback Eli Mathews, second-team running back Dennis Hubbard, first-team wide receiver Jake Birmelin and first-team offensive lineman Jerry Drake Jr., among others. But Clark is confident their replacements are up to the task.

Clark, the former offensive coordinator, still has an ongoing quarterback battle between junior Chris Sancillo and sophomore David Studstill, the brother of former Palm Beach Gardens star and current Notre Dame safety Devin Studstill. At running back, Clark expects returning backs Pedro Epps and Kevon Purnell to split time and Hall will join returning receivers Deont’e Cooley and Antoine Lane.

“We did a good job improving every single week last year, offensively,” Clark said. “And I want to make sure that we definitely do as much as we can to put a lot of points up on the board.”

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