Sebastian hosts Vero Beach in annual Kickoff Classic Friday

SEBASTIAN — Football under Friday night lights is back, as the Sebastian River High School Sharks host Vero Beach High School Indians in the Fourth Annual Dollars for Scholars Kickoff Classic.

After winning the inaugural contest, the Sharks have lost the last two meetings with the Indians (each time by a score of 21-6). The game isn’t counted as a regular season game, however, and is treated as much as an event as a game.

“Their administration sets it up like it’s the Super Bowl,” said VBHS Coach Gary Coggin. “That’s the type of atmosphere that high school football players need to experience at least one time. There are a lot of schools that miss out on having the support that communities of Sebastian and Vero Beach give.”

SRHS Coach Randy Bethel also likes sense of pageantry the game creates for his team.

“The players are ready to play under the lights, for the fans, and in front of the cheerleaders. You’re going to get bored of just hitting each other in practice.”

Both are keeping the perspective that it’s a pre-season game, but are definitely taking it seriously.

“I think we’re both looking for clean games,” adds Bethel. “I want my team to play with the intensity they’ve practiced with. Everyone can do well in practice though. This team is ready for a game.”

The two teams are coming into the season from different situations. The Sharks are depending on several seniors to help the team improve on an injury-riddled 6-4 season a year ago. Conversely, the Indians are counting on several players to fill holes left by the departure of key personnel from last year’s 9-3 team.

“We have to have 11 players fighting to get to the football out there instead of having that one great backstop back there that’s a great, well-coached athlete,” said Coach Coggin of replacing All-State Safety Zeke Motta. “We have to have 11 leaders now, not one. If you are going to be a championship contender, it’s because you play great defense.”

Both teams have a run-heavy offensive attack, but have capable passing games to keep each other honest. The Indians come to Sebastian as the favorite, but both teams are talented and athletic.

In short, it’s anyone’s game.

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