North Port High plans to play as an independent

North Port High cheerleaders get set to cheer on the Bobcats during a game last season in Englewood. MATT HOUSTON/HERALD-TRIBUNE

North Port High cheerleaders get set to cheer on the Bobcats during a game last season in Englewood. MATT HOUSTON/HERALD-TRIBUNE

The North Port High football team plans to play as an independent and not in the new districts set forth by the FHSAA.

“We didn’t rush the decision,” North Port director of athletics Tony Miller said. “We are just trying to build a program, and we’ve never had time to build our program.”

The Bobcats were placed in Class 4A-District 14 with Riverview, Sarasota and Venice High.

“We’ve been talking with everybody about it,” Miller said.

North Port finished 2-8 last year and has yet to have a .500 or better record in its program history. The Bobcats have not won a district game since 2018.

The Bobcats have kept a number of teams on their schedule, such as Estero, Cape Coral Ida Baker, Fort Myers Riverdale, Cape Coral Island Coast and Lemon Bay and are looking to schedule games against Davenport and IMG Academy Blue.

Ground has been broken on a new turf field at The Preserve, home of the Bobcats. The field is scheduled to be ready for the start of the 2022 regular season.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic football team broke open a close game with 27 unanswered second-half points to pin a 44-14 setback on host Bradenton Christian on Friday night, Oct. 8, 2021, at Dan van der Kooy Field in Bradenton.

Cardinal Mooney Catholic football team broke open a close game with 27 unanswered second-half points to pin a 44-14 setback on host Bradenton Christian on Friday night, Oct. 8, 2021, at Dan van der Kooy Field in Bradenton.

Panthers return to SSAC

The Bradenton Christian football team has been accepted into the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. The Panthers played in the SSAC for five years before returning to the FHSAA last season.

Bradenton Christian went 6-1 in the SSAC in 2020. It played in the FHSAA Class 2A-Region 3 last year and was slated to play in three-team Class 1A-District 6 with Cardinal Mooney and Fort Pierce john Carroll.

The Panthers will play in the South Division of the SSAC with other area teams including Out-of-Door Academy, Saint Stephen’s and Sarasota Christian, which will field a team for the first time for the 2022 season.

There are 16 teams in the South Division.

IMG promotes Miller to head coach

IMG Academy promoted assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Billy Miller to head coach of its national team, according to a press release from the institution.

Miller replaces Thomas “Pepper” Johnson, who coached the Ascenders for one season. IMG Academy went 9-1 this past season, losing its final game of the season to St. Frances Academy of Baltimore, Maryland, 34-24. In the nine wins, the Ascenders outscored their opponents, 414-84.

Billy Miller is the new coach of the IMG Academy national football team.

Billy Miller is the new coach of the IMG Academy national football team.

Miller has spent eight seasons with IMG Academy. He was instrumental in player development and the weekly development and execution of game plans, including for the 2020 national championship winning team.

As well as being the head coach, Miller will continue to oversee the special teams unit. “For the past eight seasons Billy has shown exceptional head coach traits with his development of our student-athletes both on and off the field,” IMG Academy athletics director Scott Dean said in the release. “We couldn’t be more excited to have him guide our program into the 2022 season.”

Prior to joining IMG Academy in 2014, Miller spent three years as an assistant coach in the NFL, most recently as special teams scouting assistant with the New England Patriots in 2014. As special teams assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013, Miller was responsible for quality control of special teams, including all breakdowns and analysis of opponents for the six phases of special teams. His unit ranked first in the NFL in blocked punts in 2012 and second in the NFL in 2013, and was the top-ranked team in kickoff drive start in 2013.

Miller’s experience coaching student-athletes dates back prior to joining IMG Academy. He spent three years on the Rutgers University staff as a special teams assistant coach from 2010-2012 and coached New Jersey high school programs Holy Cross Academy (2009) and Haddon Heights High School (2007-2008). He was a four-year starting kicker at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania where he was 2-time All-American, 3-time All-Conference, 3-time Special Teams MVP and graduated as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

“I’ve been incredibly proud to be a part of the IMG Academy staff, and I’m honored to become the national team’s next head coach,” Miller said in the press release.

Dennis Maffezzoli is the deputy sports editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and chief reporter for Sarasota Herald-Tribune and HTpreps covering Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. Support local journalism by subscribing.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: FOOTBALL NOTES: North Port High plans to play as an independent