January 24, 2024

Umatilla High School Football To Compete in Sunshine State Athletic Association

2.9 min read| Published On: January 24th, 2024|

By Kyle Coppola

Umatilla High School Football To Compete in Sunshine State Athletic Association

2.9 min read| Published On: January 24th, 2024|

Exciting times lie ahead for the Umatilla High School football program who have elected to compete in the Sunshine State Athletic Association next season. They will compete in the Atlantic conference that comprise of other public schools that make up the conference.

We had the chance to talk to Umatilla Athletic Director Patrick Todd who was excited about the change for the program. “We were not dissatisfied with the FHSAA at all but for us as a program that we are trying to build, we thought it was in the best interest of our student-athletes and coaching staff to head compete in the SSAA for the 2024 season.” says Patrick Todd.

(Umatilla High School coached by former alumni Eric Samuels who stands far left are very excited about this move. It should be highly beneficial to the Umatilla High School football program.)

Being a coach at MDCA in the past, coach Todd had some experience with the decision to join the SSAA, which at the time was in its infancy but now has grown quite considerably as a very effective option for many schools in our area. Umatilla High now becomes the 5th school in Lake County to join the SSAA with MDCA, First Academy-Leesburg, Liberty Christian Prep and Real-Life Christian Academy. The latter two have 8-Man football programs.

“We are trying to build this program and instill a positive culture with our players. That starts with teaching them how to walk and function around campus and the community. The reward is hoping that they get success out of this and validate what we are trying to build at Umatilla High School.” says Patrick Todd.

(The Bulldogs will look to have more sustained success in the coming season and years as the program continues to evolve.)

Umatilla High School will join programs like, Space Coast, Paxton, Lake Weir, Interlachen, Stanton, Cocoa Beach, Sebastian River, Coral Springs Charter, Tradition Prep, Bell and Bronson. Those schools have found the SSAA to be a positive step for their programs in recent years as a healthy alternative for their respective programs.

As far as the process of getting ready for the 2024 football season, Patrick Todd says “Our students are very excited about this move. They are getting in the weight room and the kids have embraced this move. It will allow us to face similar competition in school size and backgrounds.”

(Recent improvements to the football stadium include new goal posts, new signage, paint and upgraded locker rooms. The school is committed to their athletic programs. The basketball teams are now having sustained success. Hard work is paying off.)

This move has been positive in particular for Mount Dora Christian Academy who won a conference championship last year. The SSAA allows teams to compete in a refined playoff experience that is inclusive and a positive experience for the student athletes. Seeing the jubilation and happiness that came with MDCA winning a conference championship this year further validated this as a positive move for Umatilla High School.

While the football team is moving to the SSAA, the rest of the school’s programs are going to be competing in the FHSAA. Nothing will change as far as those programs are concerned however there likely will be new district opponents and some teams jumping classes this year.

This seems to be a step in the right direction for Umatilla High School. The FHSAA attempted to put Umatilla High School in a district with Cocoa, The Villages, South Sumter and Astronaut. The Villages and South Sumter recently won an appeal that overturned this. Both Astronaut and Cocoa are over two hours away from the schools in Sumter County. Instead, the district will now comprise of The Villages, South Sumter, Eastside, Dunnellon and North Marion.

With Umatilla High School headed to the SSAA that leaves just Astronaut and Cocoa in their respective district. For right now this is a positive step for the Umatilla High School football program. The work will be hard and challenging the next few years but as we have seen with Umatilla, the hardwork is beginning to pay dividends. Success does not happen overnight, however if the basketball programs are any indication, the needle is moving in the right direction. We look forward to seeing what they are able to accomplish in their new conference in 2024!

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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