East and West are well prepped and optimistic

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It's finally time for football

By Pat Faherty

Darious Johnson may be the fastest guy in Gadsden County.
And he is one of reasons for all the optimism at East Gadsden High School.
It's finally time for football.
Johnson is a senior and Jaguar veteran who will start the season as a receiver and cornerback.
But he is also a track standout and proved it last spring when he came in second in the 300 meter hurdles at the Class 2A state championship finals at Winter Park. And that was after winning the preliminary and a lot of other track meets to get there.
Last year at East he rushed for over 800 yards and scored 10 touchdowns.
Johnson along with William "Baby Sapp" Sweet, Zemaric Holt and assistant coach Stan Nealy represented the Jaguars at  the 4quartersonline.com  Media Day last week in Tallahassee.
It was an opportunity for the coaches and players from all the Big Bend high schools to meet the media and get experience with fielding questions in public.
It was a chance for the media to get an early idea on how the various teams are shaping up. Gadsden County was represented by East, West and Munroe.
Nine seniors returning on offense and seven on defense is another reason for the optimism at East.
"We're looking pretty good right now on paper," said Nealy. "We're looking to win the district title."
The coach said the team has been grinding away in the weight room every day since the season ended last year and some of the guys have doubled their bench press from last year.
He said they had about 80 percent participation during the whole summer. "We want to win the first district in Gadsden County since West Gadsden did it three years ago."
Nealy also spoke on the importance of players keeping up their grades, which he noted has been a big problem in Gadsden County in the past. "We had kids that really truly had more talent than any other kids anywhere, but when they (colleges) looked at those transcripts and that GPA didn't say what it was supposed to say, they didn't call them back," he said. "Our overall GPA is a 2.6. we want that to be 3.0 by next year."
Nealy also cited the importance of having community support and said that he and head coach Corey Fuller have been out talking about the team.
East is scheduled to play in the Fall Classic at Godby on Aug. 25-26. The Jaguars open the regular season on the road Sept. 2 against Niceville High School.
Well-known head coach Antonio Bradwell, running back Monterrious  Presha, linebacker Keldrick Peoples, Demarius Richards and quarterback Kershen Hinson showed up at the event to represent West Gadsden High School.
They too are optimistic about the upcoming season.
"We're looking to have a good season this year," said Bradwell, "with a lot of players returning on both sides of the ball." He said they might have six or seven returning seniors, a luxury for the small school. And his players are getting older with more experience.
"This is one of the hardest working groups I've had," said Bradwell about the team. "We have 25 kids and the first 10 or 15, they could play with anyone."
Another aspect of this season is that West will be facing more school's its size instead of the larger schools it has traditionally played.
And the coach is anticipating strong community support this year based on his squad of "well-liked" home grown players.
West opens its regular season Sept. 2 with an away game against Deane Bozeman School.