Anticipation is running high as the Bartow High School Yellow Jacket football team gets ready to start the new season. The Friday game in Frostproof will provide more answers to questions about the year ahead.
Few can recall the last time that Bartow and Frostproof met on the gridiron and the Kickoff Classic pre season contest has a lot to offer both teams. Both were winners of their respective spring games with Bartow topping Mulberry 35-27 and Frostproof beating Lake Region 14-7. It was Bartow’s first game under new head coach Jason Butler, who had been in the position less than a month at the time of the May game. Frostproof sat potential fall starters to get a good look at the depth chart. That was three months ago and a lot has changed in the interim. Both programs appear to be stronger in many ways, a fact that will show itself on Friday night in Frostproof.
The Bartow community got its first look of the year ahead with the initial Monday “Coach’s Corner” at Beef ‘O’Brady’s. The event, which will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday, provided a short video of the past game to open the activity.
Butler narrated some of the highlight plays, pointing out standout performances during a game that saw the Jacket offense roll up more than 400 yards. Butler cited some of the players who contributed, including new names for Bartow fans to become familiar with. Quarterback Dimitri Leverett, now a senior, will lead the offense at quarterback. Running back Tyreese Cruz had some exciting runs from the backfield during the Mulberry game. Receiver Tre Jordan will be a target on downfield passing attempts.
“We have a ton of talent,” said Butler about offensive capabilities. “We’re hoping to capitalize on our speed and hiding the ball from the opponents.”
On the defensive side, linebacker John “Boogie” Kilpatrick was cited for a trio of big hits in the Mulberry contest and the physical play will become a hallmark for the season ahead. The Bulldogs will provide the first test.
“They are a very good football team,” said Butler. “They have three Division 1 potential athletes, two of them have offers from SEC schools. We are hoping our defense can corral their attack and that our running backs can stay away from their linebacker.”
Though Bartow is considered a 7A team and Frostproof rated at 3A, none of that matters at the coin toss. The large difference has been a determining factor in keeping the team from playing each other, though Fort Meade is a regular Bartow opponent and the Miners share the district with Frostproof. The rarity of the matchup makes this an attractive game for Bartow fans to see.
“We’d love to see everyone come out to this game,” said Butler. “This is a pretty unique stadium and the fans are right on top of the players. It’s a great place to be playing and watching because you can really feel like you’re part of the action. The fan support can really boost the team.”
The game at Faris Brannen Stadium kicks off at 7 p.m.