Key West held its annual Red-White game on May 23, electing to forgo an outside competitor and instead participating in an intrasquad scrimmage.

Head coach Johnny Hughes explained the rationale behind the scrimmage, stating “We can spend more time on some technical stuff. We can spend two weeks on tackling dummies and work on form instead of putting in a scheme.” 

Hughes said the team spent a lot of time “breaking down the nuts and bolts of each position, especially with so many new kids out there.”

Many of the newer players referenced by Hughes currently attend Horace O’Bryant and Sugarloaf schools, whose eighth-graders were welcome to practice with Key West’s current ninth- through 11th-grade athletes. Hughes praised the young players, describing them as “a good eighth-grade group out there. Some of them have a chance to play next year.” 

“I thought it went well,” Hughes said of his spring campaign. “We were very focused on the teaching aspect, not so much the scheme aspect. Overall it was very productive for us.” 

He credited returning talent with hard work in the offseason and for stepping into leadership roles on the field. He will look to that crew, including Walson Morin, Jaden Fox and Jeff Dejean, to help spark the Conchs offense, but noted many of his talented athletes are playing two ways, making things more challenging for a school unable to recruit in the same manner as mainland schools. Hughes anticipates big things from RJ Brown and Shane Lavallee, though Lavallee missed much of the spring for an extended track-and-field season. 

The Conchs also used the spring to sort out their quarterback situation. The vacancy will most likely be filled by Teak Guyet, who showed a lot of promise heading into the fall. Protecting Guyet will be an offensive line with a lot of potential but lacking depth. Hughes hopes a strong summer lifting program will benefit the offensive and defensive lines and more athletes will be technically and physically be ready to serve as backups for the existing linemen.

Key West ended the spring with about four dozen athletes in uniform, and the focus on technique and proper form will be crucial come fall. 

“Aside from one team in our district, we match up pretty well as long as we stay healthy. Our front-line guys will be competitive but depth will be a challenge,” Hughes said, on his prospects for the 2024 season. 

That “one team” referenced is Miami Northwestern, coached by former Miami Dolphin Teddy Bridgewater. Northwestern is new to Key West’s district this season after redistricting added the Bulls to FHSAA’s 3A District 16 group. The Conchs have until October to figure out how to handle Northwestern; Key West’s kickoff classic is scheduled for home on Aug. 16 against the Coyotes of Cypress Creek.

Tracy McDonald
Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.