On Friday night I had the opportunity to visit cozy little Denison Field in downtown Winter Haven (FL) to see the Winter Haven High School Blue Devils face off in their annual Pre-Season Classic football game against the Ridge Community High School Bolts from Davenport (FL).
If you haven't been to a high school football game in many years (like myself) I highly recommend that you take the time to visit one of your local stadiums and check out what may be the last place that you can find real, pure football still being played.
With all the scandal and apparent corruption in college football and even talk about paying college football players gaining momentum, I think it is safe to say that at least most high school football players are still playing simply for the love of the game or the simple respect and admiration of the family, friends and neighbors.
But what really interested me on this local high school football game was not so much the players on the field but the coaches on the sidelines. Before we get into that let me first give you a little history lesson about Winter Haven High School from the schools web site:
In 1886 the first school was started on the second floor of Boyd's Hall, which is the site of the present-day City Hall. Then, in 1890 a frame school building was built at the corner of Central Avenue and First Street. More space was added in 1912 for the 200 pupils now going to school. Three years later a brick building replaced the frame ones, making room for twelve grades. All elementary and high school grades were accommodated in the twenty-two classrooms of this building until 1922-23. An eight-room structure for the high school was erected on Fourth Street, this is the present annex at Denison Junior High School. In 1925 a large stucco structure (two stories plus an above-ground basement) was erected on the adjacent lot for the high school, and the smaller building became a junior high school.
If you have followed University of Miami football for the last 40 years like I have (It's a family tradition that started with my father and dates back to the early 1970s) then the last name of "Tate" may mean something to you.
Charlie Tate was the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes from 1964 to 1970. In six seasons and part of a seventh, he compiled an overall win-loss record of 34–27–3. His best season with the Hurricanes came in 1966, when his team went 8–2–1 and won the Liberty Bowl against Virginia Tech. Tate also served as the Athletic Director at Miami from 1969-1970 when he abruptly resigned as the Hurricanes' AD and head coach after the second game of the 1970 football season.
Chuck Foreman was Tate's most famous recruit in the late 1960s. When interviewed at the ESPN Club, Foreman, who went on to a great career in the NFL for the Minnesota Vikings, said of Tate, "He had faith in me, as a black athlete in the South during that tumultuous time, and I will never forget him. He was a great, generous man."
Charlie Tate was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
His sons Charlie Tate Jr., Richard Tate and Robert Tate, can all currently be found coaching high school football in Central Florida. Charlie Tate Jr., who can be seen below (at Center) coaching up his team on the sidelines during Friday's game, is the head Coach for the Winter Haven Blue Devils.
Got all that? Yes indeed, for the Tate's, coaching high school football is a family affair!
The game was a blowout with Winter Haven racing out to a 37-0 first half advantage.
Tate had his Blue Devils operating with precision in this pre-season match-up as they displayed what seemed to be an obvious advantage of speed and talent advantage over the seemingly lifeless Bolts.
In the first half the Blue Devils had their balanced offense on display as they rushed for 119 yards and passed for 119 yards while racking up five touchdowns. The defense also forced a safety on a bad snap.
Senior quarterback Levi Borders helped the Blue Devils racked 297 total yards. Borders tossed touchdown strikes of 19 yards to Luke Ewles, 15 yards to Fred Rhone and 10 yards to Jontrell Hawkins and the rout was clearly on.
With starting running back Adam Lane sidelined with a broken ankle Winter Haven's Walter Bridges filled in admirably and managed to to gain 86 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns.
The Ridge offense could not get un-tracked and their special teams made several major miscues that resulted in Winter Haven finding themselves in scoring position of which they took advantage for most of the first half.