ABOVE: Mount Dora High School head football coach Cameron Porch.
This summer the fate of the high school football season seemed precarious. Coaches and players are used to moving targets and obstacles, but COVID-19 brought unprecedented hurdles to prepare for and overcome. Typically, high school football teams workout and practice all summer in advance of the season, but this year preparation was delayed and uncertain. Although the team began getting into shape earlier this summer with temperature checks before outdoor workouts, the start of actual practice using footballs and other equipment was delayed. Full-contact practice did not start until last week, just two weeks before their first game. The varsity football tradition of Friday Night Lights is now just around the corner with the first of four home games kicking off on October 9 followed by Homecoming on October 16 (see entire schedule below). Mount Dora High School’s new head football coach Cameron Porch joined the program last January and prepared the Hurricanes for their abbreviated season with their season-opener near Gainesville on September 25. The short Hurricane season only gives the varsity team seven games and junior varsity four games. Although capacity in the stands is limited, Porch hopes the community can support the local players, band and cheerleaders by either attending or watching on livestream. Porch has already succeeded in one of his early goals for the team -- to expand its very thin roster from last season. The average number of boys per school in 11-player football in 2018-19 had fallen to 70.6 according to the National Federation of High School Associations. Last season, Mount Dora High School fell short of that average, but Porch has since recruited20 new players even with negative impacts of the pandemic. Under Porch’s leadership, the Hurricane football program secured new uniforms and new equipment for the game field, and created a more intimate atmosphere for the kids to enjoy themselves. Since first meeting the team eight months ago, the coach has noticed the players have matured and they are starting to grow together through the hard times. Porch, who stresses attendance and effort to his players, said this season’s Canes have shown impressive resiliency during these trying and uncertain times. “We've been through a lot in a short amount of time, but they've continued to do what we ask and that will take us a long way,” said Porch. High school football players often dream of competing on the next level -- college. At his introductory meeting last February, Porch expressed one of his priorities is helping those players with college opportunities and assisting them in the recruitment process which has been made more uncertain due to COVID-19. In return, the coach just asked them for one thing: effort -- not only on the field and in the weight room, but also in the classroom and the greater community--the effort, in short, to be a good person. The new coach brought his 16 years of high school coaching experience to Mount Dora High School after coaching in the Gainesville area and Georgia. Many of the Florida football programs were struggling when Porch came on board, and he helped turn them around. That transitional experience may be just what the Hurricanes need during this challenging season. Meanwhile, the head coach hopes the team will fight through any hard times and continue to grow as men. He also hopes the players’ resilience rubs off on the school’s student body.
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