Atkins and Garner ready to be Gators

It was a business trip for Jonathon Garner and Avery Atkins Friday, but they did take a few moments to soak in the atmosphere of the University of Florida campus prior to Daytona Beach Mainland's scrimmage with Gainesville High School at Citizen's Field. (Pictured: Jonathon Garner from last night's game in which Mainland HS crushed GHS 37-0. Avery Atkins also played in this game.)

"We were looking at the whole atmosphere around the campus and it's just great," said Avery Atkins, a 6-1, 187-pounder who has committed to UF as a corner. "Just seeing all those college kids walking around the campus I could see myself fitting in there and that's just a great feeling."

Jonathan Garner, a 6-5, 215-pound lefthanded quarterback who also committed to UF, got excited the moment he saw the buildings on campus.

"I thought, man this is great," he said. "I'm looking at those buildings and seeing all the people, and I just can't wait to be part of it. Avery and I both are excited. We'll be here next week for the Middle Tennessee game. Avery and I will be coming here together for all the home games. We're Gators!"

Mainland dominated GHS in the scrimmage, scoring early and often to rack up a 37-0 win. In the three quarters of varsity action (jayvees played in the fourth quarter), Garner went 11-16 for 221 yards and three touchdowns, plus he ran the ball twice for 10 yards. Atkins had 12 carries for 88 yards as a tailback before leaving in the third quarter with a slight tweak of his ankle.

"I could have gone back in there and if it was a real game and it was close, I would have been back in there for sure," he said. "My ankle hurts a little bit, but I'll be fine next week when we open against Seabreeze."

Garner showed arm strength and touch. He had a completion on a post pattern that went 53 yards to Antonio Wilson (junior wideout, younger brother of Vincent Wilson, UNC) and he had an overthrow of Wilson on another post pattern, a ball that traveled 55 yards in the air with accuracy. He threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Wilson on a fade, showing nice touch.

"That was a checkoff at the line," said Garner, who has started at quarterback three years for Mainland, winning 37 games including last year's state championship. "They were trying to cover Antonio one on one and anytime I see something like that, the coaches give trust me to check off and take advantage of it. I don't think there's anyone who can cover Antonio one on one."

Atkins showed tremendous acceleration at tailback, ripping off long runs of 20 and 18 yards on consecutive plays in the second quarter. He saw some action as a safety.

"We could have done more tonight," said Atkins, "but we're just using this to get ready for next week. It was good to get the team back together again."

In the wake of Hurricane Charley two weeks ago, Mainland was unable to hold official practices as a team for 11 days.

"We seniors got the team organized and we worked out on our own together, but we couldn't do any hitting or hard practice," said Atkins. "It was good for us to get this in tonight. We needed it."

Mainland is 37-5 the past three years. Atkins says the secret to the team's success is the family atmosphere that Coach John Maronto has created.

"I love these guys," said Atkins. "I love these coaches. With the players, it's like a brotherhood. I mean it. These guys are my brothers. Every one of them. If you're on our team, you're part of a family and we really do love each other. That's why we succeed because everyone's pulling for everyone. We work hard together to make each other better players, and we help each other with anything — school work, girl problems... anything.

"At Mainland, black and white doesn't matter. You can be green or blue and we don't care. If you're on our team, you're in our family. That's what makes our program so strong right there."

Mainland is loaded with prospects. Tight end Brian Ellis (6-3, 235), linebacker Matt Lewis (6-1, 230) and center Eddie Tabasky (6-4, 320) are all getting their share of attention.

"I've got Oklahoma, FSU, Tennessee, UCF, LSU, Ohio State and Nebraska talking to me a lot," said Ellis. "Right now I don't have a real favorite. If Florida decides to recruit me, they'll be up there at the top, too."

Wilson (6-1, 180), tailback Kirby Watson (5-8, 190) and offensive tackle Cruz Barrett (6-6, 305) are juniors who will be getting plenty of attention next year.

"We've got a lot of really great athletes," said Garner. "I'm amazed at guys like Brian Ellis. He's got speed and great hands. We've got lots of guys who are going to play football in college. I think it's going to be a fun year for us."

Bryan Evans, pictured below, showed up at the game to support his buddy, Avery Atkins. We'll have an interview in an innovative format coming up soon - look out for it and get the real inside scoop!

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