The Key West High School football team kicks off their 2015 regular season against Ocala Lake Weir this Friday night at 7 o’clock. This is the second year where the Conchs are in an independent league—the Gold Coast Conference. Last season the Fighting Conchs, led by quarterback Andrew Freeman, reached the playoffs for the first time since 1995 and played against Oxbridge Academy in the championship game. Despite suffering a 52-32 loss against Oxbridge, Key West finished the season 5-2, which was an improvement from 2013’s season 1-9 record.
After losing seventeen seniors, the Conchs’ starting lineup contains many changes, including quarterback. The quarterback competition this year will be between junior Michael Clever and sophomore Carson Hughes. Both played on junior varsity last season, but received limited time under center as Freeman played majority of the games. Both are expected to split the starting job and see who can step up to fill the shoes of Freeman.
No matter who starts, Clever and Hughes will be running the triple option offense and both will be handing the ball off to senior running back Mekhi Sargent. Sargent, who rushed for 1,147 yards as a junior, is currently a little less than 400 yards short from becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher. Sargent, who averaged 143.4 yards per game last season, is entering his senior year with a 4.57 40-yard dash. Not only will Mekhi Sargent be the main back for head coach Johnny Hughes, he will be helping out on defense as well. In the Conch’s first preseason game against Champagnat Catholic, which Key West won 32-26 last week, Sargent showed off his defensive skills with a one-handed interception at the beginning of the second quarter. Sargent has received two full ride offers so far from colleges—one from Marshall, where Randy Moss played football, and Towson University.
This week’s season opener will be interesting. According to Richard Burton, Lake Weir is the first Marion County team to travel to Key West for a game since 1982. Why is this critical? If you pull out your map, you’ll notice that Marion County, located in Ocala, is above Orlando. Key West has played very few teams outside of South Florida in the recent decades. From 1975 through 1988, they played Bartow, Hardee, Ocala Forest, and DeLand. In other words, it has been a long time since Key West has played anyone from the North Florida region.
The Conchs ended the 2014 season ranked 126th in the state. Heading into this season, Key West is ranked 198, while their opponent, Lake Weir, is ranked 402nd, according to Max Preps. The Southernmost team looks to return to the Gold Coast Conference Championship this season, but first must go through the Lake Weir Hurricanes this Friday night at Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium.