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Moore Haven football eyes strong season

Moore Haven takes the field for its preseason kickoff classic Aug. 18, 2022. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

MOORE HAVEN – If its preseason kickoff classic was an indication to the type of season that lies ahead for the Moore Haven High School football team, then Terrier fans won’t be disappointed.

With a new coach and several new players, the Terriers displayed an explosive offense and a solid defense in a lopsided shutout victory against Berean Christian-West Palm Beach on Aug. 18 in front of packed stands at Joe Brown Stadium.

Moore Haven’s season begins in earnest tonight at 7 with a game at Atlantic High School in Port Orange near Daytona Beach. The Terriers’ home opener is scheduled for Sept. 9 against Kenswick Prep from St. Petersburg.

“We’ve got a very good team. The kids are excited; that’s the biggest thing because last year was a bit of rough year for them,” said coach Jack Garrett.

Indeed, 2021 was a brief and rocky one for Moore Haven, which went 0-3. This season the team has about 45 players on varsity, which includes a few key additions who previously played at Clewiston High School. The nine-game regular season includes a trip to Georgia to face Appling County on Sept. 16. A tour of the University of Florida is on the Terriers’ itinerary.  

The squad features plenty of athleticism, which Berean got a taste of on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Kenari Wilcher caught a perfectly thrown bomb from quarterback Henry Boyd for an 80-yard touchdown. It was the first of three TD catches for Wilcher, who is also a defensive back and has committed to the University of Illinois in the Big Ten Conference. Garrett said he believes Wilcher would be the first Moore Haven player to play for a Power Five college since the late 1990s.

Preston Thompson is another highly regarded DB who has committed to Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Garrett said offers have come in for other players, too.

Junior running back Zailin Jackson, listed at 5-foot-8, 220-pounds, displayed a combination of power and speed against Berean and proved to be tough for defenders to take down.

Moore Haven High School freshman Waylon Yates warms up before the Terriers faced Berean Christian-West Palm Beach in a preseason kickoff classic Aug. 18, 2022, in Moore Haven. Yates is one of two Seminoles on the team. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

Two Seminoles are on the team, both on the defensive side.  Senior linebacker Corey Jumper and freshman defensive end Waylon Yates will start the season in backup roles.

Jumper, who did not play in the Berean game, provides depth and versatility.

“He’ll backup at linebacker and he’ll play a lot of special teams. Great kid. He works hard. He’ll get a lot of playing time,” Garrett said.

The 224-pound Yates, who is the team’s tallest player at 6-foot-4, maybe even 6-5, brings vertical size that’s ideal for defensive ends. Yates saw playing time in the second half against Berean and made a few tackles. He recently joined the team.

“I decided to do it because it’s better than doing nothing,” said Yates, who is a former Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School student.

This season marks the debut of a new FHSAA playoff format that should help teams in rural areas such as Moore Haven. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the Terriers’ season ended with playoff losses to Miami-area powerhouse Champagnat Catholic. Champagnat went on to win two state titles with enrollment numbers similar to its rural and suburban playoff opponents, but a pool of players to draw from in Miami-Dade County that is vastly greater than areas for schools such as Moore Haven. Under the new format, schools from the state’s biggest population areas – such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa – will compete for state titles in the Metro section while schools in rural and suburban areas vie for state championships in the suburban classification.

“It definitely benefits us because you’re playing more schools like yourself,” Garrett said.

Moore Haven is in the newly-formed Class 1S. Its three-team district includes two Christian schools in Fort Myers.

Future varsity Terriers will be back in action this season. Moore Haven will have a junior varsity/middle school team. Middle school students from PECS have played on the team in recent years, although there was no team last year.

Jack Garrett is in his first season as head coach of the Moore Haven High School football team. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Fans watch the preseason kickoff classic Aug. 18, 2022, at Moore Haven High School. (Photo Kevin Johnson)
Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at