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What Irma Left Behind: St. Augustine, Florida

There’s no doubt that getting back into the normal routine is what any community wants following a natural disaster. For St. Augustine, a city where more than half of its community was under a mandatory evacuation zone for Irma, it was all too familiar after last year’s Hurricane Matthew. Schools reopening and high school games being rescheduled are sure to put minds at ease for students, parents, and coaches. However, there’s one aspect following a hurricane that most people might not think about pertaining to high school football, the loss of bye weeks. Following the cancellation of two games, the St. Augustine High School Yellow Jackets now will have to play back-to-back games for the rest of the season and surely, they are not the only school to experience this. For the students, it’s just a great thing to be back on the field. For the coaches, it switches up the mindset.

Talking about the couple weeks off due to Irma, Junior Varsity Coach JP Bennett told us:

“As a coach, I have learned that you must be understanding. Getting the players back from missing essentially 2 weeks of practice and games is tough. It's almost like you have to start over from the beginning on conditioning and getting their mindsets back into the game. You have to be very aware of how your players are acting and also understand that they haven't ran or done many physical activities in 2 weeks. You also want to be there for your players and their families, so checking in with everyone throughout the whole process was very important.”

Coach JP Bennett went on to say they were very fortunate as a team following the hurricane as they did not suffer heavy damage; and even though his home was flooded, he kept in good spirit:

“I don't believe any of our coaches or players experienced heavy damage, thankfully. For myself, my house flooded and I am looking for a new home because I am renting and don't want to take the chance of another hurricane next year flooding my house and ruining all of my stuff again. We had some players and coaches gather together after the hurricane to do some relief efforts around the community which was pretty awesome.”

So how can someone go from homes being flooded, games being cancelled, and being thrust back into the fray of football with a back-to-back schedule; all of which took place last year too? Coach Bennett told us about the strength of the team.

“Getting back to playing is always a nice thing for the kids. They spend a lot of time practicing and working their tails off just to have a game cancelled not once but twice due to a hurricane.”

And how did the Yellow Jackets respond to their opponents?

“Our original bye week was supposed to be last Friday 10/06/2017 but we managed to reschedule the game vs. Ponte Vedra. I guess you could say the outcome speaks for itself.” The Yellow Jackets beat the Sharks in a blowout, 41-0. “The kids were excited to get that big win over Ponte Vedra High School, it was a tone setter for the rest of the season.”

Even though there won’t be any time for breaks, the Yellow Jackets are determined to keep up the pace and face each team with the same attitude.

“The FHSAA playoff system is now going off of a points system so essentially you have to win your district championship to make the playoffs or score a lot of points. That's what we did last Friday night and that's what we plan to do for the rest of the season.”

St. Augustine High School has their first District game since Hurricane Irma against Edward H. White High School on October 13th.

*Update – St. Augustine High School defeated Edward H. White High School 49 – 7 and Nease High School the following week 35 – 23, sealing their District 4-6A title. The Yellow Jackets will now face Middleburg on October 27th with an undefeated 7-0 record.

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