Vero Beach Fighting Indians score big, early for win over Jensen Beach

VERO BEACH — Vero Beach spurted to a 20-0 halftime lead and was never really challenged in a 27-3 victory over Jensen Beach in the Friday night’s pre-season football game at the Citrus Bowl.

The Indians offense ran the ball for nearly 300 yards and all four touchdowns. Class 3A Jensen Beach also ran the ball well, but could only dent the scoreboard with a 4th quarter field goal, thereby averting a shutout.

Indians head coach Gary Coggin thought it was a “pretty good showing” by his team, something  to build on.

“Our effort was good and we showed decent conditioning,” he noted. “We always emphasize fundamentals. There were a few glitches, but we treat everything as a learning experience.”

The guys were watching game film early the next morning for precisely that purpose.

The enthusiasm generated by the crowd was not lost on the team or coaching staff. Coggin acknowledged  the overwhelming aura of school pride that was on display.

“You can’t beat the 12th Man,” he said. “It hit me as I walked on the field. I’m proud of our coaching staff and kids. We like to perform for the crowd and make them proud.”

Coggin enters his fifth year as head coach at Vero Beach with an overall record of 29-13. The Indians claimed a spot in the “others receiving votes” category in the Associated Press preseason state poll. 

District 7-6A opponents Treasure Coast and Palm Beach Gardens also garnered votes, ranking three of the five schools in that conference among the top 25 Class 6A teams in the state.

The conference part of the schedule – and pathway to the postseason – could therefore be tough. Vero Beach finished second to Treasure Coast last year. Palm Beach Gardens, Jupiter and Centennial round out the 7-6A district slate.

Of more immediate concern is the Dollars for Scholars Kickoff Classic next week on Billy Livings Field in the Citrus Bowl against Sebastian River High School. The county neighborhood rivals met in the preseason last year with Sebastian River prevailing 13-10.

After that game, the Indians put together a seven game winning streak. They  finished 7-3 as a result of dropping their final three regular season games, including a 20-3 loss at home to Treasure Coast.

Following Sebastian River next Friday, Vero gets West Boca Raton and Fort Pierce Westwood at home before hitting the road for three of the next four. The conference schedule starts at that point, interrupted only by a non-district tilt versus South Fork.

Home games with Treasure Coast and Palm Bay take the Indians toward the end of  the regular season in November.

As has been the case in recent years, the Indians will look to control the trenches with a stingy defense and ground game. That formula has been successful, as reflected in 9-3, 9-3 and 7-3 records over the past three seasons.

An interesting subplot to the game versus Sebastian River will involve the return of Sharks head coach Randy Bethel to his high school alma mater. He expects a hard fought game in a familiar setting, this time as the visitor.

From Coggin’s perspective, it’s the never-ending challenge of facing the next opponent.

“We have to take care of our own business,” he said. “The idea is to go out there and improve.”

The coaches may not say as much, but in addition to being  just another game, the scene next Friday night promises to be electric.

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