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How a former Gator football star prepares the next generation of players

Newberry football head coach Ed Johnson led his team to a last second field goal victory against Calvary Christian on Sept. 15. A week later, with the school celebrating its homecoming, Johnson’s squad was up against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs a year ago.

“Hopefully we have enough hay in the barn this week,” Johnson said, “There’s no such thing as focus for homecoming week.”

The Chiefland Indians were the opponents the Newberry Panthers faced on Friday. Newbery came into the game with only one loss during the season. It came against the defending state champions the Hawthorne Hornets.

Last season, Johnson hired two new coaches with experience playing college football for the Florida Gators. Reid Fleming became the defensive coordinator while Travis McGriff became the offensive coordinator.

McGriff won the national championship with Florida in 1996. He also played in the NFL for the Denver Broncos from 1999 to 2001.

McGriff’s son Kiel, a sophomore, is Newberry's starting quarterback. Kiel also was a starter last season as a freshman when his father first joined the program.

“When we’re on the field and he’s coaching we can communicate at a little bit of a deeper level,” Kiel said.

Kiel said he enjoys the trust that he has with his father, with whom he said he has a great relationship.

Travis McGriff said the balance he has struck with Kiel is that, when they’re at home, they don’t talk a lot about football. But when he’s at practice, it’s football. He said tries to treat Kiel the same as anybody else.

“I probably get on him as hard or harder than anybody,” Travis McGriff said.

McGriff played wide receiver during his playing days, and that’s the position group he usually spends the most time with during practice.

One of the top receivers for Newberry this season is sophomore Hayden Moore. He led the team in receptions and receiving yards entering the game against Chiefland. The senior McGriff said he has taught Moore how to run passing routes since middle school.

“We have that chemistry since the little days,” Moore said.

Moore said he was thankful to his coach for continuing to be a leader and guide to him. McGriff continues to push Moore to make plays that help the team win, Moore said.

Chiefland defeated Newberry 49-7 in the first round of the playoffs last year. Newberry’s goal was to with the matchup this season.

On their first drive of the game, Kiel McGriff completed three passes to Moore including a 20-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the game. Kiel threw another touchdown pass in the game while Moore caught six passes in total.

Newberry won the game 34-0.

Afterwards, Travis McGriff said that it’s a lot of fun coaching the young guys, but it's challenging at the same time.

“It’s very different from playing, I can tell you that,” he said. McGriff ended by saying that one's high school years are “pretty special and you don’t ever get them back.”

Knowing that nothing is quite like your high school years, McGriff said he is aiming to help the players maximize this phase of life they’re in and become successful.

Alex is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing