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PREDICTIONS: The FHSAA Championship Edition

Jae Fortune



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Dear reader, it’s time for predictions. Sports Club Florida is proud to be a platform for all high school athletes across the state. As we continue to build, we look forward to covering programs from Tallahassee to Miami, and everywhere in between. But for now, being based in Central Florida has it’s perks. For example, tonight presents an interesting opportunity for us, as three area school bid for a trip to the FHSAA state championship.

Orange County, Florida is playing for a championship bid, times three. Orlando’s Jones High School, Ocoee High School, and Apopka High School are each looking for statement wins in the state semi-finals. Now, I admit that my predictions from earlier this high school football season were dead wrong.

But an entire regular season later, I’ve definitely got things figured out this time. And even if I don’t, that’s what the comment section is for.


We all knew that the talent, and coaching in Central Florida would give our area a great chance to compete with our favorite opps: South Florida high school football. Namely, the Miami area vs. Orlando area rivalry has only gotten more heated, and more exciting every year. As an Evans Trojan, I will continue to shamelessly mention how we beat Miami Northwestern in 1999, until Jones (or another area school) does too.


Apopka Soars

HOKA HEY, APK! There’s something about destiny that you can’t miss. This season, the Blue Darters have managed to fly under the radar, quietly assembling a 10-win run for the ages. It’s the perfect scenario for a disciplined program like Apopka: lofty expectation at home, and all the outside eyes focused on a flashy, top-heavy Edgewater team, providing a distraction-less path to the post-season.

Led by UCF commit Kaven Call, and a brand new offense, APK has managed to sneak up on everyone. But I have to ask: why in the world was anyone sleep on the team from Apopka, when this is their fourth consecutive semi-final appearance? Well, their secret is their foundation. APK, a state-runner up in both 2019 and 2021, never had to rebuild – just reload.

And, I think they’ll unload on Palm Beach Central tonight.


Jones High Roars

While Apopka has been my favorite team to follow this season, Jones season might be the story of the year.

From the August heartbreak of falling to Miami Northwestern in Camping World, to the senseless, real-world tragedy that has rocked the entire West Orlando community to it’s core (fallen Tiger Gamaine Brown will be laid to rest tomorrow), to upsetting the undefeated Edgewater Eagles in their own nest. UM commit Malik Bryant’s final year has been a roller-coaster of near adversity, and though it all this program has not waivered or missed a beat. I chuckled when I noticed how short the tweets from the Tiger have been ahead of this game. It speaks to a level of focus that should be frightening. If you doubted Jones would be here, or if you’ve never doubted them, either way:


“appreciate it.”

Homestead can’t prepare for the intensity that the Tigers are going to be playing with tonight.


Ocoee likely falls short (this time)

The Knights (9-4) are a young team, and a rising program with an excellent coach. Frankly, as a Trojan, I don’t look forward to visiting that school on Ocoee Crown Point Parkway, because I know how dangerous this program has become. There’s plenty of talent for Coach Sheppard to develop throughout their roster, including ball-hawking defensive standouts junior Acetron Ealey and sophomore Joshua Gurrier.

Ocoee will be better after this road game with Columbus (12-1) as a program, and huge problem for every opponent they face next season. I’m just not ready to buy state champion stock yet.



Predictions, and local rivalries, aside, this is a great look for the entire Central Florida community. As a Trojan, I love to see our region finally receive the respect its due. Good luck to all three teams from Orange County! Afterall, Ty Ray is right. Once the regular season carnage is over, it becomes time to silence the doubters, represent each other, and beat Miami.

ALSO: Good luck to the 10-win Osceola Cowboys (Kissimmee is a forty-five minute community from Orlando, with no traffic), and former Evans Trojan TJ Fields, who are also seeking a big win, taking on Lakeland High School (12-0) over in Polk County.


High School

FHSAA Board approves NIL for Florida Student Athletes in unanimous ruling

Robert Brumfield



In a unanimous 13-0 ruling yesterday, a Florida High School Athletic Association board voted to allow high school student athletes to receive NIL payments beginning this fall. The move comes almost three years after the NCAA finally cleared the way for college student athletes to receive NIL money.

NIL, the abbreviation for name, likeness, and image, permits student athletes to seek out businesses and/or individuals to help with financial needs, similar to a sponsor. While there will be no shortage of outcry that the move will further divide the talent gap in some situations, the decision was, in this writer’s humble opinion, the right way to go.

Raising money for high school athletes is difficult. Long gone are the days of car washes and candy drives to help young athletes finance their dreams. Average families feel the hurt on their bank accounts when they have a young football player, let alone more than one, that has a multitude of needs entering a sports season. Healthy food, supplements, training equipment, trainers/independent workout coaches, cleats, and even weights have all surged in price. The student athlete’s ability to pay for these things without the financial strain affecting their families is invaluable.

The new rule goes into effect just in time for the 2024-2025 year, but it is not without rules and restrictions. Students and their parents are solely responsible for securing NIL arrangements. Student athletes will not be allowed to use their school’s image, name, or logo in connection to their NIL deals, creating separation between the deal and the school itself.

An important note: The FHSAA NIL Guidelines will not allow “NIL collectives”, an obvious decision to try and stop organized groups with private donors/collection efforts to mass raise money with the intent to hoard disproportionate numbers of top tier recruits. The rules also prohibit high schools from using NIL money to lure athletes to their programs. Athletes transferring mid-year will not be the wild west landscape that it is in NCAA, requiring high school athletes to obtain a “good cause exemption” before receiving NIL deals after an in-season transfer. Violations of the rules of Florida NIL will result in a formal warning and termination of the agreement on a first offense, and a one-year ban in the event of a second offense.


As with any new system revolving around young athletes, it will take time to round out the rough edges and fine tune the details. There are surely going to be entire coalitions of high school coaches and administrators that do not want to see Florida High School athletics become the chaos the NCAA has seemingly become. For every detractor, though, there are many more in favor of this decision.

Board member Sara Bayliss, a counselor at Saint John Paul II Catholic in Tallahassee was quoted after the ruling; “It’s not pay-for-play per se, but I think we’re trying to avoid what’s happened on the collegiate side.” She continued that she didn’t “think it would be used widely” and if the time came that NIL became a recruiting problem “we’ll deal with it”.

Within hours, student athletes were cashing in on their newfound ability to earn from their personal brands.

Some coaches are, understandably, nervous and uneasy by the decision. One Florida football coach said he could see the potential of “if there is a star player and there’s a university out there that wants him, now that university has the ability to funnel money to that kid, to get him to whatever university”.

There was also significant outcry from many online that the way for NIL had been cleared for high school athletes, yet coach and teacher pay was still stagnating, which is a fair argument in most cases. Notably, the Florida Coaches Coalition Twitter/X account posted how the coaches seemed to feel overall.

That is a real concern and one that will be incredibly tricky to navigate and police. There will be bad faith actors involved at some point. There will be violations. There will be mistakes made, both by student athletes and sources of NIL money. However, the benefits to these young people will far outweigh the drawbacks. The ability to provide themselves with the best nutrition, training regimen, and equipment will not only reduce strain on families and bolster the athlete, it will increase the quality of the sport being played across the board.

There are certainly challenges ahead as the Florida High School athletics landscape adjusts to this landmark ruling, but overall I would say this is a big win for high school student athletes.

Thanks for getting your Florida high school sports news here at Sports Club Florida! Make sure to check out our other great contributors for more on your favorite Florida sports teams.

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High School

Building Relationships with the Community: Gus Malzahn Winning Strategy

Tramayne Wright




Coach Lo discusses how Gus Malzahn identifies the key figures within the local community in Central Florida.


Gus Malzahn had a vision. He saw the potential in the local sports scene and knew he had to seize the opportunity. Coach Lo Wood vividly remembers the strategic move that set Malzahn apart: reaching out to key figures in the community.


“The first thing I recognized about Gus was how he instantly reached out to the guys in the community,” Coach Wood shared. “He called me up and said, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ And it wasn’t just talk. Gus meant it. He wanted to build something real.”

Mazzone’s approach wasn’t just about forming superficial connections. He sought out genuine relationships with influential community members. Soon, other notable figures like AG Waseem and Ellis Danley were echoing the same sentiment. “Next thing you know, there’s AG Waseem saying the same thing, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ Then he calls Ellis Danley with the same message. It was clear that Gus was building a network of trust and cooperation,” Coach Wood explained.

These were not random choices. The individuals Malzahn reached out to were deeply embedded in the community, and respected for their roles and commitment to the local youth. “Who are all these guys he’s been in a relationship with?” Coach Wood asked. “They’re the guys from the community, the ones who have the kids with them every day. They’re the mentors, the coaches, the father figures.”

Malzahn vision was to ensure that talented athletes didn’t feel the need to leave their hometown to find success. “I knew right then that a lot of athletes were going to stay home and be hometown heroes,” Coach Wood stated. “That’s the way to do it.”

He elaborated on the significance of this approach. “When you have someone like Gus, who invests in the community and builds these relationships, it creates a support system for the kids. They see that they can achieve their dreams right here, with the people who have always been there for them. It’s about pride, it’s about belonging, and it’s about giving back.”


Coach Wood believes this method will have a lasting impact. “What Gus is doing isn’t just about winning games. It’s about building character, fostering community spirit, and creating a legacy. These kids are not just athletes; they’re future leaders, and Gus is showing them that they can lead from their own backyard.”

Malzahn efforts are not just about creating successful athletes; they are about nurturing future leaders who can lead from their own community. By building a strong foundation within the local sports scene, Gus Malzahn is making a lasting impact that will benefit the community for generations to come.



Coach Lo talks about The Importance of Building a Strong Community for the UCF Knights




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High School

Creative High School Pep Rally Ideas to Boost School Spirit

Tramayne Wright



One of the most important things about high school culture is pep rallies, a festive and spirited way to increase pride among pupils and support sports teams as well as recognize an achievement. Pep rallies need to be made memorable and engaging so that organizers can try new ideas that will make students interested in what is happening around them and love their alma mater even more. The following guide contains many creative ideas for pep rallies in high schools that can invigorate the students and motivate them, thus creating a feeling of unity among the participants which shall prevail throughout the entire school.

1. Theme-Based Pep Rallies

Organize pep rallies with themes that are associated with fun activities such as games to make them interesting. Just choose any topic about what they like doing mostly for instance one could consider “Decades Day,” “Superhero Showdown,” or “Hollywood Stars.” Participants could be encouraged to adorn these costumes, decorate the setting accordingly, and include related activities, games, or other performances within the program of this gathering.

2. Lip Sync Battles

A lip sync battle where students, teachers, and staff compete against each other by miming popular songs could also form part of such pompous gatherings. Their creativity needs to come out while showcasing dancing styles and on-stage behaviors during this time in addition to inviting audience participation through cheering for their preferred groups. Props suits or special effects may all be added up as elements that will boost performances making them lively.

3. Dance-Off Competitions

Involving student dance groups, cheerleading squads, and faculty teams competing in different dance-off competitions would also be appropriate for such events. These could even incorporate different types of dances ranging from hip-hop to jazz on top of salsa or breakdancing before giving a chance for judges’ votes on the best performers present at that time hence creating a remarkable show gunning for people’s hearts.


4. Pep Rally Games and Challenges

Various kinds of games and challenges can be used to test the student’s skills, camaraderie, and school spirit. Some examples of such include relay races, obstacle courses, tug-of-war contests, and trivia quizzes among others where classes or grades can compete against each other. For all these fun activities to be a success, it is advisable to offer tokens to victors as well as ensure that everyone takes part in them enthusiastically.

5. Spirit Contests and Awards

For the sake of promoting pride in schools, this may require organizing spirit contests that will encourage students’ involvement and celebrate their enthusiasm. This includes announcing competitions such as; best-dressed student or teacher, loudest cheering section, most spirited class or creative poster/banner, etc. They should also use cheers representing their schools through various chants while displaying support towards their teams or even classmates.

6. Special Guest Performances

There should be additional excitement during pep rallies by inviting some guests like local bands or cheerleading squads to entertain and inspire students. You may consider having talented students who are successful musicians, and dancers among others perform on stage before surprising the audience with some unexpected acts by special guests throughout this rally. These can also give one more reason why they should come back next time.

7. Interactive Technology and Multimedia

If incorporated into pep rallies these allow for a more immersive event thereby making it memorable for students using interactive technology and multimedia tools which have been used by teachers in classrooms over years now. For instance use of video screens or LED displays and sound systems would help to improve visual designs plus audio effects supplemented with live streaming whereby those who cannot attend physically get involved via social media networks too at times when others participate virtually through play-offs taking place live during this kind of manifestation on line.

8. Community Service and Philanthropy

The infusion of service and philanthropic initiatives into pep rallies will give them a sense of purpose and social responsibility. Link up with local charities, non-profit organizations, or voluntary groups to bring awareness about critical issues through such drives. Students can be allowed to do fundraising activities, have donation drives, and volunteer tasks among others in which they impact their communities positively while showing compassion for their school.



Creative high school pep rally ideas rekindle the energy in students hence inspiring, uniting, and building an identity within them as well as their pride in their schools. These memories can only be created by planning themed rallies, hosting lip sync battles, and dance-off competitions together with other pep rally games, acknowledging spirited students and faculty members during the event, and inviting special performers among other personalities that can make it lively; they should provide this fun using interactive multimedia technology by including tools like iPads on the list of requirements for those who want to participate effectively as pupils can use them for various reasons even beyond imagination.

Yet with ingenuity and an unwavering adherence to school spirit, high school pep rallies could be revivified into vibrant inclusive occasions that unite and inflame student’s devotion towards their institution.

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