Jimmy Longerbeam is giving his Bay football team a taste of the big time this upcoming season.
The Tornadoes open their schedule near Houston, Texas, Aug. 29, in a showcase game rarely involving a Bay County team since Steve Hardin coached at Rutherford. Bay faces Dickinson in the first of a two-year series set by the schools and the teams will open on the week typically reserved for kickoff classics in Florida.
Bay will compete in its kickoff classic a week earlier against Tallahassee North Florida Christian. The Dickinson game will count toward the regular season and is one of 10 on the schedule for the Tornadoes.
“For me it was an opportunity too good to pass up,” Longerbeam said. “Our guys are juniors and seniors now. I think they’re ready to take the next big step.”
The same could be said for Rutherford in 2001, when the Rams traveled to Houston to play Spring, Texas, in the Astrodome. Dickinson might not have a stadium with a capacity like the former home of the National Football League’s Oilers, but Longerbeam said several thousand will be on hand for the game. Dickinson is coming off a playoff appearance.
“The only danger is they’re a bigger school with 2,000 kids, they have 15 coaches on staff and probably will have 20-25 more kids,” Longerbeam said. “But the positives outweigh the negatives. It’s a chance for our kids to get out of state, and Texas is tradition-rich in football.”
Dickinson has agreed to pay Bay $10,000 to cover travel costs and lodging accommodations. The Tornadoes return home to host Port St. Joe (Sept. 5) and Tate (Sept. 12).
The rest of Bay’s schedule and those of other area teams largely remain the same due to this being the end of a two-year contract scheduling period. The Tornadoes and District 1-5A foes play six league games, leaving up to four nondistrict contests.
Rutherford coach Rob Armstrong said the Rams will have a nine-game schedule because of Marianna canceling a projected Nov. 7 meeting in Marianna. The Rams currently are off the final two weeks of the season after playing Mosley on Oct. 24.
Arnold’s nondistrict opponents are again Holmes County, Tallahassee Florida High, Freeport and Port St. Joe. Mosley opens with two road games at Tallahassee Leon and Pensacola Escambia and also travels to St. Petersburg Lakewood for a kickoff classic.
Smaller Bay County schools Bozeman and North Bay Haven play a variety of Class 1A schools. North Bay Haven continues to compete as an Independent.