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High school athletic programs hit high gear
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Updated: 09/06/2012 08:01:51AM

High school athletic programs hit high gear

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Larry Jewett


Eric Rookard goes around the end for a gain Friday night in the Yellow Jackets opening game against George Jenkins. Bartow won the game 16-7.

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Bartow High School students are getting acclimated to new schedules, new teachers and new routines. For those on the athletic teams, there is the added responsibility that those pre-school practices have now given way to the occasional match, game or contest.

There is always an air of excitement to wonder how a team will be faring with a new season. There are always departed seniors to replace and sometimes, new coaches to provide new learning. Of course, the pre-season practices have allowed many of those items to settle in, but now the time has come to determine if the planning and preparation are going to yield results.

A few of the Bartow teams have started their seasons on the right side of the win-loss ledger. As detailed in Saturday’s edition, the varsity football team knocked off Mulberry by a 16-10 score to back up the kickoff classic win over George Jenkins from the week before. Bartow, enjoying home field advantage in each of those two games, is hoping to capitalize on the momentum with another home game against Auburndale Friday night.

After the game, Jackets football coach Brett Biggs shed a little more light about this team that worked through 100 degree heat in the summer practices. It was pretty obvious that they have been prepared for what is before them.

“I’m really proud of the effort,” said Biggs.”There are things we can’t control once the game gets started and it’s up to them. They have to be willing to give what it takes to win.”

The Jackets found themselves in a quick 7-0 hole Friday night in one those “builds character” situations. It was a surprise to more than the players when Mulberry threw a 49-yard touchdown pass on their first play.

“All week, we focus on stopping their running game,” said Biggs. “They threw 35-40 passes in their game against Fort Meade and we only saw them throw the ball twice. Number 12 (who caught the touchdown pass) didn’t even show up on the film running a route. We had to change quickly and the guys did just that.”

The adversity also allowed the Jackets to blossom as a team. “We really bonded together,” said Biggs of the sideline on Friday. “Our offense was encouraging the defense and the defense would be pulling for the offense. You could see them come together and gel as a team and that is a wonderful sight. You win games as a team.”

While the football team holds a 1-0 record, so does the girls golf team. The squad had their first match last week, playing host to George Jenkins at the Bartow Golf Course. When the tally was done, it was once again a team effort that made the difference. While Jenkins had the lowest scoring round, the consistency of the Bartow team brought the victory. Markie McCann and Jacqueline Caron each shot 43s as Bartow had a team score of 183. That was one shot better than Jenkins and good enough for the win. The girls played in Sebring (results unknown at press time). Your next chance to cheer them on at a home match will be tomorrow (Sept. 6) for a rematch with Sebring.

The boys golf team had a home match yesterday against Ridge and George Jenkins. The Ridge team features one of the top youth golfers in the county as Sam Horsfeld, who advanced into the top 32 at the U.S. Junior Amateur. Bartow will meet Ridge again on Sept. 12 at Highland Reserve. The Jacket boys golf team will be playing away from home until Sept. 18, when they meet up with George Jenkins and Lakeland.

The volleyball team will be getting their longest road trip of the season out of the way. The team has matches with Fort Meade, Haines City, Ridge and George Jenkins before coming back to the hive on Sept. 19. Their opponent will be Lake Gibson.

Bartow’s boys and girls swimming and diving teams had their first meet of the year in Winter Haven. In the girls’ contest, Ariel Schleicher finished third in the 200 meter freestyle to give Bartow a podium finish. The effort of Jarrod Naberhaus brought a third in the boys’ 100 meter freestyle competition. Bartow will be in action again tomorrow in Lakeland.

To round out the fall sports, the boys and girls cross country teams will be looking to start off a great year. Tomorrow will also kick off the season for the Bartow JV football team. The Junior Jackets travel to George Jenkins. Last year, the JV squad opened their year with a win over the Eagles and they are looking to do the same again this season.