When Nature Coast boys coach Travis Priddy saw his team's schedule for this season, he shook his head in dismay. With just two preseason games under their belt, the Sharks were slated to play three district games in the first 10 days.
"It's a little frustrating," Priddy said. "It makes it tough."
Though his team is 3-0 with wins over district opponents Hudson and Pasco, Priddy's sentiment is a common one among area coaches.
Hernando's boys opened the season with a game against district rivals Pasco, Gulf and Zephyrhills. Springstead faced Gulf in the season opener. And on the girls side, Springstead, Hernando and Nature Coast all faced each other in the first two weeks. The early-season tests present a number of challenges for coaches.
Priddy, for example, had to wait until football season ended for leading scorer (and Sharks quarterback) Josh Ortiz to join the team. Last year, it wasn't much of a problem. But the football team made the playoffs this season, which cut into basketball practice.
"If your football team makes the playoffs, you're hurting at the beginning of the year," said Priddy, who pointed to last year's South Sumter team, which struggled through the first couple weeks of basketball season as most of its players were busy with football.
Hernando coach Jeff Laing's biggest issue is with the scheduling of so-called rivalry games. This year, the Leopards played arch-rival Pasco over Thanksgiving break, when most fans are out of town.
The next time they'll face the Pirates? Over Christmas.
"Those need to be Friday night games," said Laing, who says he hopes to take a more active role in scheduling at the spring district planning meeting. "Same thing with in-county games."
County games present another dilemma. For the most part, the girls and boys teams play each other on the same nights (for example, Hernando's boys team plays Springstead on Friday night at the same time its girls play Central). Laing said this forces fans to choose between the boys and the girls, and ultimately hurts attendance.
Most coaches say they would like to see occasional boy-girl varsity doubleheaders. Pasco is hosting one Friday night.
Though Nature Coast girls coach Jason Montgomery, who doubles as the school's athletic director, says he would be in favor of a doubleheader, he admits there are "a number of factors" that complicate scheduling.
For now, it looks like coaches will simply have to make do.
CENTRAL BOYS: Darryn Frazier has been a dominant force for the Bears, leading the team in points (12.8 per game), rebounds (6.7) and assists (2.3), but coach Eric Hayes doesn't want the transfer from Alaska to get complacent.
"There's still a lot of room for improvement for him as well as the team," Hayes said. "If he improves, the team will improve and as the team improves, his stats may increase because of that."