Panama City, FL---Three weeks from now, Friday becomes game day.
You can count those days, all 21 of them, until the new season officially starts, but at Bay High, the Tornadoes have been waiting for years for 2014 to get here.
It's the fourth fall of the Jimmy Longerbeam era. Last year, year three, was the most successful during his run, so far.
The Tornadoes finished 2013 with a 6-5 record, closing the season out with a bowl game win over West Gadsden.
Last year, the young team received an education on learning what it takes to be great. This year, a squad filled with experienced upperclassmen at key positions hopes to put those lessons into action.
"We've been waiting for this team," said Longerbeam. "We've worked up to this point to get this junior and senior class together. With those guys and the additions of some other kids, it's been a real big kind of push for those kids and we're really excited about what we've got. It's real important for us to kind of develop some depth, because we've got a lot of guys who have come back and played 24 games now, 24-25 games now, just based on experience."
The Tornadoes finished fourth last year in 5A District 1, where they return to battle County rivals Mosley, Arnold, and Rutherford, along with Gulf Breeze, West Florida, and Pensacola Catholic, the latter two who made the postseason last year.
As year four begins, it's bolstered by a foundation of returning starters at skill positions, upperclassmen back on both sides of the ball, and a total roster pool of over 75 players, which includes a 9th grade team Bay will run this year.
With that in mind, it's not surprising to hear where coach Longerbeam think's his program's strengths lie.
"I think the biggest thing is numbers," said Longerbeam. "The number of young kids we have out here and the number of kids returning. And just the fact that we've had such a really, really good summer. The kids have been all over this summer. We talk more about trying to get better everyday and worry about us. Let's fix us and let's do what we have to to get better and the rest of that stuff will take care of itself."
Bay's preseason matchup comes August 22nd at North Florida Christian in Tallahassee. Their season opener features an out-of-state battle in Texas to play Dickerson High School, right outside of Houston.