It started small a few years ago with a handful of teams.
Now, “going independent” has become the way to go when it comes to small private school football progams.
Unable to effectively compete against the bigger public schools as well as perhaps some of the big-time private programs (see St. Thomas Aquinas, American Heritage and Columbus), the “little guys” decided they would drop out of the FHSAA state series and form their own conferences.
Even though the financial strain of the times hasn’t rescued everyone as both Dade Christian and Archbishop Curley were forced to drop their programs this season, things have worked out well.
Almost too well.
Last season saw both Archbishop McCarthy and Coral Springs Charter run the table with undefeated 12-0 seasons. But, competing in two different conferences, Gulf Coast and Southeastern Football, respectively, meant the two teams would never meet.
Not long after the end of the 2015 season, the push to bring CSC along with other top teams from the Southeastern Conference together including Calvary Christian, which had beaten CSC in 2014 for the title, was on.
And thus, a brand new conference, the Gold Coast, was formed for 2016 and it will be an impressive group. In addition to Charter and Calvary coming over, Westminster Academy and Pompano Beach, who had a combined 14-6 record last year will be joining as well forming a 10-team conference.
“The quality definitely went up pretty quickly,” said McCarthy head coach Byron Walker. “Now we have 10 teams, with nine conference games so you’re going to have to be prepared week in and week out and be ready to go. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
One game clearly circled on Walker’s schedule will be a big showdown with Charter, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 30 at Coral Glades High School, CSC’s designated home field.
“We started getting some overtures not long after the season ended last year from Coral Springs Charter, Calvary and Westminster Academy and really Pompano Beach first,” said Walker. “When we met for the first time, we voted them in immediately. It means that the conference is not just bigger but more challenging now.”
The remaining five teams from last year’s Gulf Coast Conference, North Broward Prep, Pembroke Pines Charter, Key West, Coral Glades and Riviera Beach Inlet Grove will fill out the 10-team conference.
“This is also going to create some more natural rivals as a lot of the schools are not that far apart geographically,” said North Broward Prep coach Rex Nottage with Westminster Academy as his team’s primary rival. “This is high quality football. All of these coaches, they’re good coaches who do a great job with their teams and are very committed and disciplined with their players. This is going to be great for everyone.”
The playoff format will be simple.
Upon completion of their nine games the weekend of Oct. 27-29, the top four teams will advance with the No. 1 team hosting the fourth place finisher and number two hosting number three in a pair of semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 10.
While Charter, McCarthy and Calvary Christian figure to battle it out for the top three spots, the last spot will be up for grabs among North Broward Prep, Westminster Academy, Pompano Beach and Key West which made it to the Gulf Coast title game last year and nearly upset McCarthy.
Pines Charter, Coral Glades and Inlet Grove will likely play the role of darkhorse.
The championship game is scheduled to be played on Thursday, Nov. 17 at a site to be determined.
“The fact that there are so many great coaches that you’re going to have to prepare for every week was what really attracted us,” said first year Coral Springs Charter coach Matt Garris who replaces Adam Miller who left to join Ron Turner’s staff at FIU. “The level of competition has gone up for our players and we feel like we’re there at that stage right now where we want to get our kids on the field playing against the best competition in the county and that’s what this conference will allow us to do.”
Sept. 2: Archbishop McCarthy at Westminster Academy; Sept. 9: Westminster Academy at Calvary Christian; Sept. 16: Coral Springs Charter at Westminster Academy; Sept. 23: Calvary Christian at McCarthy; Sept. 30: McCarthy vs. Coral Springs Charter (Coral Glades); Oct. 7: Calvary Christian vs. Coral Springs Charter (Coral Glades); North Broward Prep at Westminster Academy; Oct. 14: McCarthy at North Broward Prep; Oct. 20: McCarthy at Pompano Beach; Oct. 21: Key West at Calvary Christian; Oct. 28: Calvary Christian at North Broward Prep; Key West at McCarthy; Pompano Beach vs. Coral Springs Charter (Coral Glades); Nov. 10: Conference semifinals; Nov. 17: Conference championship at site TBA.