The South Dade Buccaneers will feature blue uniforms and helmets this season as opposed to the black color scheme in recent years.

It is only one of the changes the team will have in 2019.

The Bucs held their first preseason practice on Monday and will be looking to replace a number of key players.

“The first day is always a statement,” head coach Nate Hudson said. “We’re all excited about it. We haven’t gotten a chance to do this since the spring, but it seems like light years since we got it on. It’s a new vibe, a new energy. I like to think of it as a new era.”

South Dade, coming off a 10-3 season and appearance in the regional final, will take on a bit of an underdog role with Palmetto entering as the Class 8A Region 4 District 16 favorite.

“We are the underdogs right now,” senior defensive back Jaiden Francois said. “We’ve got a lot to prove. I like it. All these boys are hungry because a lot of these guys don’t have offers so they feel they have something to prove and that they’re being overlooked.”

Coral Reef and Southwest round out the new four-team district with Region 4 having 16 teams with eight making the playoffs.

The offense will have the most changes with quarterback Demetrius Burns and leading receivers Frank Ladson and Najeh Baker graduating.

They will look towards Killian transfer Kelvin Durham, a senior, to step in as the signal-caller with fellow seniors Trevon Sanders and Melchelzadek Mathews expected to be key playmakers behind an experience offensive line led by Jonathan Denis and Jose Mirabal.

“It’s still a work in progress, but you can tell (Durham) has moved the needle,” Hudson said. “He’s starting to catch on to the concept of what we’re doing. He has a good command and feel now of his personnel. I think he’s earned the respect of these guys.”

Sanders has been stepping up as a leader for the Bucs and had been anticipating the first day of practice.

“It’s very exciting,” Sanders said. “Since I woke up I’ve been ready to come here. It’s my senior year. I’m just ready to ball.”

The defense will be led by a talented secondary with Francois as the headliner coming off a 12-interception season tying a Miami-Dade County record. Seniors Keshawn Washington, Jalin Wilson, and Harry Henderson round out an impressive unit with sophomore Markie Mallary looking for his opportunity.

“All of them are Division I prospects,” Hudson said. “Collectively we like where we are. All of them can play the same positions. We just have to find that niche to build a cohesiveness.”

Southridge transfer Naquon Fagan will look to fill the void at linebacker left behind with Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste and Devin Hardy graduating.

The defensive line returns senior Terrell Battle and junior Tyler Johnson.

South Dade opens its season on Aug. 23 against Doral Academy at Harris Field. The Buccaneers will not play a kickoff classic game.

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