Tuesday marked the end of Jay Fulmer’s coaching exile with his fresh start as Ridgewood’s head coach.
“I’m just so happy to be coaching,” said Fulmer, the former Gulf coach who was suspended by the district the past two seasons.
“I’m so happy to be out here, smelling that sweat again.”
Practice started later than most schools to allow Fulmer drive to school from his job as an elementary school PE teacher. The 28 Rams present installed new formations and ran through basic schemes.
Fulmer said few players jumped out to him — all of their helmets show names or nicknames to aid the new coaches — but he’s impressed with the work ethic of his new club.
“As a unit, as a team, they work together,” Fulmer said. “They’re all working for one goal, which I like.”
Fulmer, who replaces Kent Reed, also drew positive reviews from one of Ridgewood’s top returning players, junior tight end Max Livingstone.
“I’m not gonna lie; it was fun,” said Livingstone, a Division I prospect who caught all three of the Rams’ touchdowns last fall. “There’s a lot more discipline. Everyone is into it.”
More first impressions
Former Gaither coach Mark Kantor’s first practice as Hudson’s head man was filled with learning the basics, right down to the tiniest details. Three claps precede quadriceps stretches. Two thigh pats and one clap go before a calf stretch.
“Little things matter,” Kantor, right, told his team.
Though the team and coaches are still getting to know each other — one coach called a player by the wrong name, and athletes were asking assistant coaches where they went to high school — a few players were already impressing Kantor. That includes starting QB Joey Caruso, who filled in for the injured Will Fulmer and passed for almost 500 yards during his freshman year.
LB/DE Jacob Heintzelman and WR/DB Owen Derksen also drew attention, and Kantor was pleased with a deep group of linemen, led by Robbie McCarty and Alec Facendola.
“We’re just putting the pieces together,” Kantor said. “The kids have bought in. … Everybody at the school building’s excited there’s a new head football coach.”
Stat of the day: 200 percent
Participation increase at Hudson from the first day of spring ball last season to the first day of spring football this year. The Cobras had 16 players on opening day 2011, although the spring roster eventually climbed to 28 under Justin Fenton. This year’s initial practice drew 48 players, and Kantor said two others were absent.
Kantor credited weightlifting coach David Broughton for boosting numbers during the offseason.
Ridgewood was without one key player Tuesday — running back Tyler Vito. He watched drills from the sidelines before heading across campus for baseball practice. The outfielder is batting .278 with 17 RBIs heading into tonight’s Class 5A region quarterfinal game against Hernando.
Vito, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior, ran for a team-high 372 yards and all four of Ridgewood’s touchdown rushes last season.
Nature Coast junior RB Matt Breida earned his fourth MAC offer Tuesday during Ball State’s visit to campus, Sharks coach Charles Liggett said. The Cardinals offered him as a cornerback, adding to his offers of UMass, Akron, Toledo and Georgia Southern. Michigan and USF also stopped by to inquire about Breida and DE/ATH Rohan Blackwood (2014).
Tweet of the day
Fivay seems a little excited about the return of football after its first trip to the playoffs last fall:
@FivayHSAthletic: “Spring Football Starts in 9 Hours! Let’s Go Falcons!!”
Starting from scratch: Weeki Wachee coach Mark Lee, center, huddles up to talk with his quarterbacks on the first day of spring practice. The Hornets will begin their first season of varsity play in the fall.
Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com.