OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee High School Brahman varsity football team will take their first snaps of the 2019 season against the Jupiter Warriors on Aug. 16 in the pre-season kickoff classic.
Second year Brahmans head coach Ty Smith said overall he’s feeling much more relaxed and confident in his team’s preparation this year as they head into the kickoff classic. Well, he’s feeling relaxed in regards to the football aspect. When it comes to the referees, there was maybe a little bit of concern.
In the beginning of August some high school referee associations across the state of Florida threated to sit out games this season unless their pay was increased.
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) sets a cap on per-game fees for officials, and the cap is currently $65 per game. Local official’s associations are able to negotiate with individual districts for administrative and travel fees in addition to that cap. But Florida refs say the $65 cap is much lower than other states pay like Georgia and Alabama who pay their officials $100 per game.
Last year officials in the Treasure Coast Officials Association (TCOA), which referee Okeechobee football games, received a $14 travel stipend per game.
In Lee County the school district denied any pay raise to their referee association, causing a football officials work stoppage a week before the start of the regular season. Many wondered if a similar situation would play out in Okeechobee and along the treasure coast.
But early this week members of the TCOA and local athletic directors were able to work out a compensation agreement and the TCOA voted unanimously to officiate games this season.
The FHSAA has said they will increase compensation for officials in all sports for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
Okeechobee hosted Jupiter last year in the kickoff classic in what would turn out to be one of the most dramatic games of the season for the Brahmans.
In the final minutes of that game OHS senior Jalen Pryor caught a 20-yard touchdown pass to put Okeechobee up 21-14 over Jupiter and give the Brahmans the win.
This week the Brahmans will be getting back two players who had to sit out the majority of last season with knee injuries, seniors Oscar Longoria and Matthew Beard. The kickoff classic should be a nice preview for how Okeechobee has improved over the offseason, something we already had a small glimpse of back during Okeechobee’s spring game against Lee County back in May of this year.
In that game Okeechobee put on an offensive display for the ages, racking up 387 yards on offense with 213 coming through the air and 174 on the ground. The Brahmans won that game 56-6. Senior Veyon Washington looked fast and shifty on offense and seemed to have that extra burst of speed that put him just out of reach of Lee County players.
Ahead of the kickoff classic coach Smith has praised his players for their tempo in practice and says he’s been impressed with some of his younger players, particularly freshman running back Michael Burgarelli.
“Looking at our district, I think it’s going to be very competitive,” said Smith. “We’re looking at the games we have scheduled and thinking we can pull off several of these wins. If we can do that I think we can make a run for this district.”
Okeechobee hosts Jupiter at Okeechobee High School at 7 p.m. on Aug. 16.