Niceville begins loaded non-district slate with Lincoln – The Northwest Florida Daily News
SETH STRINGER @SethSnwfdn
NICEVILLE — In college football, typically the media likes to dissect and discuss the strength of schedule for national title contenders.
This is most true when it comes to their non-conference slate.
On the prep scene, Niceville could argue no area team rivals its non-district schedule.
In response to the new FHSAA playoff format, head coach John Hicks had to get creative with the schedule after being turned away by Pensacola teams and beyond. The result is a schedule that’ll have the Eagles battle-tested if they stretch the regional playoff streak to 17 seasons.
The slate begins with a four-game stretch that includes two 7A Florida teams, three playoff teams and a powerhouse from both Louisiana and Texas. Then the Eagles hit a four-game stretch with three District 3-6A foes before concluding at home against 2016 Final Four qualifier Navarre.
With Mosley the outlier in terms of success, that’s a combined 40-21 record among five teams.
The tough road begins Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff at Eagles Stadium against Lincoln, a foe the Eagles defeated 30-20 last year.
Lincoln finished 5-4 last season with a region quarterfinals appearance. Gone, though, are lead back Chris Stewart and quarterback Chris Brimm, who passed for 1,486 yards and accounted for 20 touchdowns.
Niceville has to fill holes, too.
Will Koch replaces Jeff Toney at quarterback and brings a dual-threat perspective that will open up the playbook.
Running back Deonte Sheffield is gone to FSU, the talented trio of Brooks Alexander, T.J. Pope and Taylor Scarbrough left to fill the backfield void.
Departed also are playmakers like Jordan Tinder and Trey Diggs, replaced by breakout candidates in Jack White and Ryan Romair.
But defensively Niceville is stacked, Callahan Phillips and Eli West headlining the Eagles’ depth at linebacker and Sam