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Ready for some football? It’s been on my mind for weeks. their teams this season. From the moment I stepped onto the pracWe’ve also included schedules, rosters and tice field for the first official day of fall practice fun facts to prepare you for the 2012 season. Aug. 6, I’ve been preparing for this moment. But, what if you’re a fan of more than one And, now, the moment we’ve all eagerly team? How do you know which games to atbeen anticipating is finally here. tend? That’s where we come in. So, let’s get to This weekend, 10 East County and Sarasota it. football teams will officially kick off the 2012 football season. Week 1: Braden River at LakeRivals will clash. County foes will wood Ranch — Over the past four battle for bragging rights. And one years, this East County rivalry has deteam will seek to keep its national veloped into one of the premier games title hopes alive as a benefit to those of the season. The Pirates won the first who sacrificed themselves to protect three meetings, before the Mustangs others. broke through with their first victory And that’s only the beginning. last season. Both teams boast youth For the next 11 weeks, these 10 and inexperience this season, but with teams, spread across seven district veteran defensive starters on either classifications, will be battle tested. side of the ball, it should make for JEN Leaders will emerge. Teams will be another close contest. BLANCO strengthened. All with one goal in Manatee vs. Miramar — Two sight — to be this year’s state chamnationally ranked in-state teams pion. collide in this highly anticipated match up. So, who will be this year’s team to beat? ESPN2 will have the call. A win and the HurWhich players have scholarship aspirations? ricanes should see their name at the top of yet What’s the mindset of a head coach heading another national poll and will have cleared into his first year on the job? one major hurdle on their way to an undeThese are just a few of the many questions feated season. that come to mind any time a new season is set to begin; and this season, we got those Week 2: Riverview vs. Manatee questions answered. — Coach Todd Johnson and the Rams are And, with that being said, we welcome you hoping to rebound from a disappointing 2011 to the 2012 Observer Football Preview. campaign and a strong performance against This year, in anticipation of the upcoming arguably the best team in the area. A win could football season, The Observer dove deeper and give them the confidence for which they’re personally got to know each of the 10 teams in yearning. the East County and Sarasota; and, in doing so, provided you, our readers, with all of the inforWeek 3: Manatee vs. Miami Central mation you’ll need to cheer on your favorite — The Hurricanes will face their second nahometown teams this fall. tionally ranked opponent of the season. Miami Inside this guide you’ll get an inside look at Central is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today Poll each of the teams in our coverage area. You’ll just ahead of the No. 3 ranked Hurricanes. meet signal callers, record-setters, speedsters, leaders and this season’s breakout players. Week 4: ODA vs. St. John Neumann You’ll get an opportunity to sit down with area — This is the game in which the Thunder’s seacoaches and learn what will make or break son derailed last season. After a 19-14 loss to

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ROSTER No. Name Pos. Year 2 Banks, Davion RB/DB SO 3 Mays, Andre WR/DB JR 4 Pittman, Breyon TE/LB FR 5 Fox, Austin WR/DB JR 6 Govan, Curtis OL/DL SO 7 Ross, Justin WR/DB SO 8 Albritton, Jimiah WR/DB SO TE/LB JR 9 Anderson, Kyle 10 Ziebell, Lou WR/DB JR 11 Ross, Erik WR/DB SO 14 Schappacher, Eric QB SR 15 Peebles, Dusty QB SO QB/WR SR 17 D’Urso, Zac 18 Dunbar, Ahmad RB/DB SR 19 Villegas, Enzo WR/DB SO 20 Balliette, Marcus TE/LB JR 21 Anderson, Casey DB SR 23 Quijano, Daniel K SO 24 Crawford, Carlos RB/DB SO 25 Maragh, Omar RB/DB SR 26 Rain, Austin RB/LB SR 28 Ford, Caleb DB SO 29 Jones, Darius RB/LB JR 33 Harwick, Krey FB/LB JR 43 Thompson, Tyler LB SR 44 Wells, Nick FB/LB JR 45 Haywood, Jake TE/LB SO LB 12 46 Florio, Nick 51 Golden, Damon OL/DL SO 53 Massenburg, Sam OL/DE 12 55 Carpenter, Wyatt OL/DL 12 56 Lunde, Brandon OL/DL SO OL/DL JR 56 Portillo, Joseph 60 Kersey, Nick OL/DL SR 62 Albritton, Kelvin OL/DL SR 70 McKoan, Matt OL/DL SR 71 Pulawski, Evan OL/DL SO OL/DL FR 72 Salguero, Alex 74 Young, Trevon OL/DL SR 75 Delgado, Juan OL/DL SR 81 Hintze, Ryan TE/OL/DE SR 82 Davis, Troy DE SR 83 Francois, Japeth WR SR

By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor


Austin Rain

Senior running back Austin Rain is hoping to have a breakout season this fall after learning his third offensive system in four years.

Austin Rain is no stranger to change. With three head coaches in four years, the Braden River High senior running back has been forced to face change head-on several times throughout his career. It’s been exhausting at times, but Rain has adapted and tried to maintain a positive outlook. “Practice makes perfect,” Rain says. “The change in offenses has been the most difficult. It’s been sort of (difficult) from a trust level, but I’m looking forward to the guys we’ve got now. We’ve got good guys (in place).” A self-described “wild child,” Rain started playing football for the East Manatee Bulldogs when he was 12 years old. “I need to expend my energy somehow,” Rain says. “I love the sport. I like bonding with my teammates. It’s (fun) when we all start connecting and clicking and start working together.” Rain started out as a line-

the basics Braden River High School

6546 53rd Ave. E., Bradenton Mascot: Pirates 2011 Record: 3-7

SCHEDULE Class 7A-10

Aug. 31 at Lakewood Ranch Sept. 7 North Port Sept. 14 at Palmetto Sept. 21 Riverview Sept. 28 Port Charlotte Oct. 5 Manatee* Oct. 11 at Bayshore Oct. 19 at Sarasota* Oct. 26 BYE Nov. 2 at Venice* Nov. 9 Palmetto Ridge *Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated

We’re the new ‘old school.’ We’ve got new faces and young faces, but we’re keeping the old school traditional values that have been here at Braden River. — first-year head coach Curt Bradley



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man but eventually switched to running back in high school. “I fit the position better,” Rain says. “I like hitting people and running people over. After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in four years last season, Rain aspires to have his most productive season on the gridiron — he hopes to return to the postseason one final time. “I want to have a good season,” Rain says. “I want to get a lot of rushing yards and hopefully get the record this year.” But in a district that includes national football power Manatee, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation in a couple of polls this season, Rain knows the journey won’t be easy. However, Rain and the rest of the Pirates are prepared to step up to the challenge. “It gives you some motivation during the week to prepare for those games because you have to be on top of your game,” Rain says.



TO WATCH Austin Rain, senior, running back “He’s a hardworking kid,” Curt Bradley says. “He comes (out) trying to be the best player and person he can be.” Matt McKoan, senior, center “He’s the leader on the offense and defensive line,” Bradley says. “His work ethic — he’s a no-nonsense type of kid. He’s going to give you everything he’s got.”


Kelvin Albritton, senior, offsensive/ defensive line

Height: 5 feet, 10 inches; Weight: 200 pounds Jersey number: 26 Favorite player: Wes

Trevon Young, senior offensive/ defensive line Young already has received scholarship offers from several schools, including Iowa State and Purdue.

Welker. “He’s 5-foot-10 and about my size — that’s all I’ll say,” Austin Rain says. Slice of advice: “Always keep pushing. Pain is good. Keep pushing yourself past the point of failure.” Backup position: Middle linebacker. “It fits my personality,” Rain says. “That’d be the position I’d play.”



The number of head coaches the Pirates have had in six years after first-year head coach Curt Bradley accepted the position in May.


The number of losses Braden River suffered last season after having reached the playoffs each of the previous three years.


with Coach curt bradley What are your expectations for the team this season? We have a good group of core kids. You grow up when you play. My early expectations are for us to put ourselves in a position to have a chance to win every game and be competitive. What do you think is the strength of this year’s team? We don’t have a large core group of seniors, but we have a lot of experienced younger kids who have had to play early. We have a good mix of experience and youth. What is this team’s biggest weakness? We have a lot of kids who don’t have experience who are going to have to play early. That’s the challenge for us coaches, to get them accustomed to playing together. The west coast of Florida is known for football, and we’re going to be playing the best of the best.

What do you think of this year’s schedule? It’s a great schedule. When it comes to district play, we’re going to be playing the best teams, which will test us and serve as a gauge to tell us where we are as a program. The kids are going to have to learn pretty early. The younger kids will get a taste of it early on in their careers, which is good for them.


The number of seniors on this year’s roster.


The number of games last season in which the Pirates either won or lost by a 10-point margin.

What do you hope to bring to the team this season? We want to further the vision of the administration here and implement discipline and core values. Football is an extension of that. From a coaching standpoint, we want to give the kids a chance to be successful every time they step on the field. These kids are working hard and getting better. They’re excited to finally get a chance to have some stability and be successful. We’re the new ‘old school.’ We’ve got new faces and young faces, but we’re keeping the old school traditional values that have been here at Braden River.

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By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor

Photos by Jen Blanco





The number of freshmen on the Mustangs’ varsity roster.

8 1

Lakewood Ranch High

5500 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch Mascot: Mustangs 2011 Record: 6-5


Class 6A-12 Aug. 31 Braden River Sept. 7 at Southeast Sept. 14 Bayshore Sept. 21 Boca Ciega* Sept. 28 Palmetto Oct. 5 at Tarpon Springs* Oct. 12 BYE Oct. 19 at Dixie Hollins* Oct. 26 Largo* Nov. 2 Seminole Osceola* Nov. 9 at Manatee

Sophomore quarterback Chad Rex looks to lead the Mustangs on offense.

The number of offensive starters returning for the Mustangs this season.

the basics

*Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated

People say a linebacker is the quarterback of the defense. Senior linebacker Luke Sears is one of four returning It’s my responsibility starters on the Mustangs’ defense this season and to make sure the guys will be called upon to provide leadership to others. the most glamorous position, but tangs to a district runner-up finish are doing their job. It’s it’s one that Sears embraces. and a spot in the postseason for quite a bit of responsi“I like the football mentality of the second time in three seasons. just running out there, making He also helped Lakewood capture bility.

The number of years Lakewood Ranch coach Shawn Trent has been at the helm.

Luke Sears

The number of times Lakewood Ranch has defeated rival Braden River in four meetings. The two teams will face off Friday night.

Luke Sears doesn’t mind being the center of attention. As the “quarterback” of the defense, the Lakewood Ranch High senior linebacker tends to carry the weight of his teammates on his shoulders. It’s by no means

plays and being reckless,” Sears says. “That’s my favorite part.” Last season, Sears led the Mus-

its first win over rival Braden River — something he hopes to repeat again this Friday night.

— senior linebacker Luke Sears


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FUN FACTS Height: 6 feet, 1 inch; Weight: 220 pounds Jersey number: 55. “I had the opportu-

nity to wear it freshman year, and I’ve kept it ever since,” Luke Sears says.

Favorite player: Patrick Willis. “He plays at a high level,” Sears says. “He plays the game the way it should be played, and he goes about his job the way that he should.” Slice of advice: “Go out and have fun.

Don’t get caught up in the responsibility. Just to go out, play and have fun.”

Backup Position: Tight end. “I do love blocking, and I’d love to catch passes,” Sears says.



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No. Name

Pos. Year 2 Brown, Ki-Jana DB Sr. 3 Desir, Wanley LB So. 4 Davis, Adam QB Jr. 5 Lewellen, Brendan DB So. 6 Vrinios, Sam RB So. 7 Maciag, Nate DB Sr. 8 Rex, Chad QB So. 9 Wilson, Jordan QB Jr. 10 Cournoyer, Jack TE Sr. 11 Luckett, Brandon WR Fr. 12 Pearcey, Chris RB Jr. 13 Davis, Terez WR So. 14 Sever, Bailey LB Sr. 15 Mcleod, Wyatt TE Jr. 16 Krieg, Randy DB Sr. 17 Hadley, Brendan WR So. 18 Pierce, Jay QB So. 19 Isemann, Nick DB Sr. 21 Angel, A’Shawn RB Fr. 22 Christiano, Andre RB Sr. 23 Bain, Craig DB So. 24 Ballard, David DB Sr. 25 Handy, John RB Jr. 27 Brayant, Marcus DB Jr. 28 Mcleod, Ty WR Jr. 31 Jeffcoat, James RB So. 32 Shackleford, Andrew DB Jr. 34 Kahoun, Eric LB So. 36 Davis, Alec LB Jr. 38 Resnick, Joe LB So. 39 Adams, Tanner WR Sr. 40 Cate, Hunter K/P Jr. 42 Haller, Karl DL Jr. 43 Remedor, Allen LB So. 44 Castelloe, Tim DL Sr. 46 Hardy, Tyler LB So. 47 Brady, Kyle LB So. 48 Loppe, Caleb DL Jr. 49 Pashley, Alex RB Sr. 50 Oakes, Ryan LB So. 52 Hobbs, Mason DL Jr. 53 Branch, Logan DL Jr. 54 Farhat, Michael OL Sr. 55 Sears, Luke LB Sr. 56 Thompson, Devon DL Jr. 57 Iacobelli, Michael DL Sr. 58 White, Tyler LB Jr. 60 Adams, Corey OL Sr. 64 Eickelmann, Austin OL So. 65 Grangier, Sam LB Jr. 67 Santoni, Michael OL So. 68 Guy, Michael OL So. 70 Duch, Logan OL Jr. 71 Simat, Mark OL So. 74 Charboneau, Matt OL Sr. 75 Booth, Jacob DL Sr. 77 Overmeyer, Gabriel OL Fr. 78 Wilson, Mike OL Fr. 79 Staggs, Andrew OL So. 80 Hoskinson, Andrew TE Jr. 81 Davis, Adam WR Jr. 82 Centofanti, Luciano WR Jr. 83 Thompson, Jake WR So. 84 Pearcey, Cameron WR So. 85 Hoskinson, Andrew WR Jr. 86 Pierce, Jake TE Sr.

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“It was super fun,” Sears says of the victory over the Pirates. “I’m glad the seniors were able to get a win. Hopefully, we can do it again (this season). We know a lot of the guys, so it’s always a game to look forward to.” As one of four returning starters on the Mustangs defense, Sears will be called upon to not only make plays this season, but also to provide leadership for Lakewood’s younger and less-experienced players. “People say a linebacker is the quarterback of the defense,” Sears says. “It’s my responsibility to make sure the guys are doing their job. It’s quite a bit of responsibility. “I love it,” Sears says. “There’s a little added extra incentive to play well and do better,” Sears says. “It’s a lot of leading by example — practicing hard every day and showing them how it needs to be done.” Football has been a part of Sears’ life for as long as he can remember. Sears grew up watching college football with his father, and one day he made the decision that he, too, wanted to play football. “I was a little kid and something happened,” Sears says. “I just assumed I was going to play football.” Sears started playing tackle football in fifth grade. He initially wanted to play defensive end, but it was only a matter of time before Sears found his stride as a linebacker. Sears assumed the role of linebacker during his freshman season at Lakewood, and it’s one he hopes to continue playing at the next level. Sears has attended football camps at Elon University, Wolford College and Furman University, with aspirations of getting recruited later this year. “I went to three camps, so we’ll just have to see what comes out of that,” Sears says.


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No. Name 1 Eugene Ash 2 Richard Otero 3 Jeron Thomas 4 Dominique Austin 5 Garrett Miller 6 Dale Dunn 7 Rod Tullis 8 Shawn Bane Jr. Marquis Zinnermon 9 10 Hunter DeWitt 11 Caulin McNeal 12 Tony Esmond 13 Austin Leach 14 De’Andre Butler Jacari Dunbar 15 17 Curry Gauvreau Devon Freeman 19 20 Chris McKenzie Quincy Battie 21 22 Daven Daniels 23 Corey Williams 24 Brian Johnson 25 Ryan Hastings 32 Evan Decker Marque Upshaw 33 40 RJ Ricci Myles McManus 42 43 Chris Giuffre 44 Sylas Jones 47 Hunter Stallings 50 Ryan Howell 52 Austin Hobson Daevaun Corbert 54 55 Martin Salazar David Anderson 56 61 Saulo Bayas Tobias Baker 69 71 Brandon Forgeur 73 Kody Taylor 74 Alex Copelan 80 Pat Gallegher Dylan Cleveland 81 92 Denzel Hurley 94 Wicky Sanon

THE Observer




sarasota high

the basics

By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor


Sarasota High School 1000 S. School Ave., Sarasota Mascot: Sailors 2011 Record: 3-7


Hunter DeWitt

Class 7A-10

Aug. 31 Booker Sept. 7 at Palmetto Sept. 14 North Port Sept. 21 Southeast Sept. 28 BYE Oct. 5 at Venice* Oct. 12 at East Lake Oct. 19 Braden River* Oct. 26 Riverview Nov. 2 at Manatee* Nov. 9 Bayshore

Quarterback Hunter DeWitt wants to lead Sarasota to the postseason this year — a feat that hasn’t happened since he started playing for the Sailors as a freshman. Hunter DeWitt was 12 years old the last time Sarasota High advanced to the postseason. The Sailors’ quarterback had only been playing football for three seasons and was still three years away from taking his first varsity snap. The coaches and player personnel have all changed since then; and now with his senior year upon him, DeWitt hopes to lead the Sailors to a berth in the postseason —  something that hasn’t happened in his four years at Sarasota. “I want us to make a playoff run, definitely,” DeWitt says. “That’s what we’re shooting for. That’s what we expect.”

DeWitt and the Sailors will open the season Friday night at home versus Booker. Last fall, DeWitt earned the starting job only to injure his shoulder midway through the Sailors’ 17-12 season-opening victory against the Tornadoes. DeWitt missed the next three games before making his return against eventual district runner-up — Venice. Now, after a productive spring in which he threw for four touchdowns against Riverview and a great offseason, DeWitt is eager to return to the field and resume his leadership role. “I just like being with the team and watching everyone get better,”

*Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated

I want us to make a playoff run, definitely. That hasn’t happened since I’ve been here. That’s what we’re shooting for. That’s what we expect.

— Hunter DeWitt, senior, quarterback

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DeWitt says. “I think when you’re the quarterback, leadership is forced upon you. I have to really take care of my guys. “I try to make sure everyone knows to work hard all of the time,” DeWitt says. “I want them to know that I’m working hard and not fooling around … it’s my responsibility to help them out.” A former baseball player, DeWitt began playing football when he was 9 years old. Now, as he gets set to take the field in his final season-opener, DeWitt wants to not only defeat rival Riverview and advance to the postseason but also make a name for himself in landing an opportunity to play college football. DeWitt has garnered interest from Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University, as well as a handful of smaller schools. But, for now DeWitt, is focused on building off the Sailors’ spring-game victory over Riverview. “I wasn’t surprised we won,” DeWitt says. “It was expected. Any win feels good (though).”



FUN FACTS Height: 6 feet, 5


Weight: 185



The number of touchdowns quarterback Hunter DeWitt threw in the Sailors’ spring game victory over rival Riverview.

Jersey number:

10. “It’s a good, solid, even number,” Hunter DeWitt says.

Favorite player:

Peyton Manning. “He’s a perfect student of the game and the way he leads his guys — it shows on the field,” DeWitt says.

6 29.3

The number of seniors who will start for the Sailors this season.

Slice of advice:


“All of the lessons I’ve learned on leadership have been really important.”

with Coach ED VOLZ

Backup position: Wide receiver.

Overall, how do you think the team did last season?

“It’s fun,” DeWitt says. “That’s what I played freshman year.”

From a record standpoint, we were 3-7. We didn’t really perform as well as we had hoped. It’s been a gradual rebuilding process here. We were forced to play some younger, inexperienced kids, and we’re going to be young again this year. How does this year’s team compare to previous teams?

I think a lot gets done in the weight room — changing their bodies and their mindset. Kids equate strength with toughness. That’s where it starts for us. Our strength and conditioning is excellent, and hopefully that’ll give us a chance to make up some ground. What do you think is the strength of this year’s team?

We have a good quarterback (Hunter DeWitt) who is a senior. The strength of

Wide receiver Shawn Bane Jr. will be one of the Sailors’ offensive weapons this season.

our team is the strength of our team. We’ve got strong kids. Our players are kids who love to play football. I’m excited because we’ll be a strong physical team playing with kids who love to compete and play. What are your expectations for this season?

My expectations are that we’ll be a relentless physical football team. If we’re not, then I’m not going to be happy. I’m excited knowing where we’ve been. My first freshman class is now going to be starting as juniors, so I’m anxious to see what happens. What is the one area that still needs improvement?

We need to do a better job of playing with passion. What do you think of this year’s schedule?

We want to play everyone in the area. I think in Sarasota and Manatee counties, how you measure up is how you compete against the local teams, and we’re lucky that our district is in our area.

The average number of points the Sailors scored in their three victories last season.


The number of points the Sailors allowed against rival Riverview last season — their lone shutout of the season.

PLAYER TO WATCH Austin Leach, junior, safety “He’s played receiver most of his life, but he has a huge future as a safety,” Ed Volz says. “He’s sacrificed his own personal desires to the betterment of the team. He’s a great kid.”

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the basics

Riverview High School 1 Ram Way, Sarasota Mascot: Rams 2011 Record: 3-7

No. Name Pos. 2 James, Richie 10 3 Gordon, Vince 10 4 Merrick, Myles 10 5 Adams, Jaden 11 6 Werkentine, Bryant 10 7 Ellis, Marcass 11 8 Jackson, Torrance 11 9 Austin, Justin 9 10 10 Barnett, Tim 11 Gomes, Brandon 11 12 Marino, Dominic 10 14 Woolery, William 10 15 Sayer, Lex 10 17 Walker, Austin 11 19 Mcpherson, Christian 20 Thomas, Jarvis 12 21 Taylor, Noah 11 22 Higdon, Karan 9 11 23 Hubert, Pete 26 Dennie, Lorenzo 10 28 Dell, William 11 29 Levanti, Adam 10 30 Green, Intell 11 32 Conte, Justin 33 Mascolino, Tony 10 34 Carrera, Gilberto 11 9 35 Hupalo, Mason 36 Werker, Chris 11 37 Bryant, Devontae 11 38 Oliveros, Brian 10 9 44 O’keefe, Tyler 10 45 Johnson, Sam

Class 8A-7

Aug. 31 Palmetto Sept. 7 Manatee Sept. 14 Venice Sept. 21 at Braden River (**TBA) Sept. 28 BYE Oct. 5 Palm Harbor University* Oct. 12 at Southeast Oct. 19 at East Lake* (**TBA) Oct. 26 at Sarasota Nov. 2 at North Port* Nov. 9 at Booker *Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated

We’re not looking to play teams that we can just beat up on. We want to play Junior wide receiver Richie James the best and chalwants to finish with 1,000 receiving lenge ourselves. yards and 400 rushing yards this season.

Richie James

Richie James knew almost nothing about football the first time he stepped onto the Sarasota

Redskins football field eight years ago. The then 8-year-old simply picked up the sport as a


2012 Rams Roster

By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor


— secondyear head coach Todd Jonson

THE Observer



way to play with his cousin, but since then, the Riverview High junior has developed into one of the most electrifying wide receivers in the area. Having spent his entire youth football career playing running back, James was switched to wide receiver his freshman season. It was a change he was

more than willing to accept. “My coach put me there after another better running back came in, and ever since then, I’ve loved it,” James says. “I mainly like catching and blocking. I want the ball in my hands. I have to have the ball in my hands.” James had never played

No. Name Pos. 50 Acuna, Matias 10 52 Franklin, Donald 10 53 Streitmatter, Jeff 11 54 Cutright, Justin 9 56 Rauch, Ben 9 57 Yaagoubi, Hadi 11 60 Norman, Hendrix 9 10 62 Martin, Reese 65 Miller, Mark 10 66 Knight, David 10 68 Valentine, Cody 11 70 Bentley, Noah 10 71 Ferris, Tyler 10 72 Althoff, Reid 11 74 Smith, Willie 11 76 Snyder, Chase 11 78 Mayes, Delvon 9 80 Preston, Taylor 9 11 81 Sabuda, Andrew 82 Auchey, Alex 11 83 Cantillo, Chris 11 84 Linn, Jackson 11 88 Almedia, Matt 10 90 Petty, Steve 11 91 Jones, Jordan 92 Sheehan, Riley 10 10 93 Drice, Patricio 11 95 Bernier, Nic 10 97 Mcdaniel, Jack 98 Routh, Adam 11 10 99 Pires, Phillip

wide receiver prior to that, but after about a week of learning the position, he realized his speed would be his biggest asset. “It actually came naturally to me,” James says. “ I got the feel for it and I loved it. My speed is my biggest strength. I just have to get past them and make a play.

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You can be taller than me. Height doesn’t really matter. I’m going to be aggressive every time.” Last season, the Rams finished 3-7 while adjusting to a new coaching staff. But this season, James has lofty expectations, both for himself —  1,000 yards receiving and 400 yards rushing — and the team. “I just want to make plays and try really hard,” James says. “I want to put points on the board and score every drive. I just want to make big plays. “Our expectations are just to play and get better every day,” James says. “We expect great things, and we’re working really hard.” James hopes for a breakout season and to help lead the Rams back to the postseason —  something they haven’t done since 2008 —  while drawing the attention of college coaches, especially those at the University of Florida. “I’m a Florida fan,” James says. “I really like spread offenses. It spreads the field, and I like the hurry up. I just love it.”

FUN FACTS Height: 5 feet, 9 inches Weight: 150 pounds Jersey number: 2. “When I

started playing football for the Redskins, every jersey I had had a two in it,” Richie James said. “During my freshman year, I just wanted No. 2. I felt like it was a good number for me. I love it.” Favorite player: “When I was a running back it was LaDainian Tomlinson,” James said. “Now I just love the game of football.”




Karan Higdon, sophomore, running back “Just the way he performed as a freshman — he worked extremely hard with this year in mind,” Todd Johnson says.

Dom Marino, junior, quarterback “The kids look up to him as a leader,” Johnson says. “He’s learned to embrace the leadership role. It’s exciting to watch him play. He’s always doing everything we ask of him.”

Backup position:

Quarterback or running back




Richie James, junior, wide receiver “Just his composure and ability to compete no matter what the circumstances are — he’ll never be intimidated,” Johnson says.

The number of seniors who will play their final season in a Rams uniform this fall.

7 10 263

The number of seasons Riverview head coach Todd Johnson played in the NFL before returning to his alma mater.

and the way they play ball.

with Coach TODD JOHNSON Overall, how do you think the team did last season?

We had a rough year. We had a new coaching staff, but the kids fought hard. We got better as the season went on, and we were able to finish off with a few wins. How does this year’s team compare to last year’s team?

The guys in there working out are a group of young guys who continued to battle and fight no matter what (circulated) last year.

What do you think is the strength of this year’s team?

Youth excitement and our skill positions. We’ve got some guys who can really play ball and give us a chance to win. I also like our youth excitement and energy. I like the look in their eyes, their attitude

What are your expectations this season?

Riverview High School always has high expectations, no matter the schedule or who is put at the helm. I expect us to perform well and handle ourselves in a first-class manner.

The number of Rams from last season’s roster who went off to play football. The number of points the Rams allowed in their seven losses last season.

What do you think is this team’s biggest weakness?

Our youth need to gain experience and they don’t have much time. They need that “Friday Night Lights” playing experience. We open with, arguably, the three best teams in the area. What do you think of this year’s schedule?

We embrace it and are excited about it. We’re not looking to play teams that we can just beat up on. We The Riverview High football team wants to rebound from last year’s disappointing 3-7 campaign. The Rams want to play the best and open their season Aug. 31 versus Palmetto, which challenge ourselves. reached the Class 5A state semifinals last season.


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By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor

Booker High tornadoes Q&A

with Coach Johnnie Jones What do you hope to bring to the team this season? A lot of just togetherness and unity; some guidance, structure and discipline. What do you think is the strength of this year’s team? Being coachable. The kids are willing and allowing us to coach and teach them. “Coach” is just a title. You’re a teacher. Everything is new, and that’s a strength. They’re like sponges soaking everything in and exerting everything they have each and every play. What do you think is the one area that still needs improvement? Play for play. Seeing how the kids respond to adversity. We’re all coaching together for the first time and seeing how they respond during game time situations. What are your expectations this season? Me being someone who played for Booker, I set the expectations high. I played the position, so I’m holding them not to my expectations but to the expectations of the position. I see the athleticism that they have, and that’s why the expectations are so high.

Mike Jones Mike Jones has spent the past 10 years making plays. The Booker High senior running back grew up playing football in the backyard with his uncles — all who played football for the Tornadoes. It was during those pickup games that Jones realized he possessed the speed and talent to eventually follow in his uncles’ footsteps and become one of Booker’s household names. “I ran really fast and nobody could catch me,” Jones says. “I knew how to make people miss and avoid getting tackled. “I feel very comfortable around football,” Jones says. “When I need to get away, I go out and play football or turn on the TV and watch football.” Since then, Jones has developed into one of the area’s most talented tailbacks. Last season, Jones rushed for 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns. “I like seeing people’s faces when I touch the ball,” Jones says. But Jones’ individual efforts were overshadowed by the Tornadoes’ 4-6 season.

the basics Booker High School

Senior running back Mike Jones hopes to rush for more than 2,000 yards this season, with the hopes of leading the Tornadoes to a winning record for the first time since 2007.

3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota Mascot: Tornadoes 2011 Record: 4-6


Aug. 31 at Sarasota Sept. 7 Venice Sept. 14 at Southeast Sept. 21 BYE Sept. 28 at Clewiston* Oct. 5 at Lake Placid* (7 p.m.) Oct. 12 LaBelle* Oct. 19 Avon Park* Oct. 26 at Trinity Catholic Nov. 2 Dunbar* (**TBA) Nov. 9 Riverview *Denotes district game

Now that his uncle, Johnnie Jones, who played safety for Booker, was named the Tornadoes’ new head coach earlier this month, Jones has high expectations for the program, which hasn’t had a winning record or

FUN FACTS Height: 5 feet, 11 inches; Weight: 175 Jersey number: 3. “My family number was eight, and I wanted to

make my own name for myself,” Mike Jones says. Favorite player: Barry Sanders. “I look up to him,” Jones says. “I see him and how he played. He put the team on his back and carried them further than they’d ever been. He’s a good leader.” Slice of advice: “Never give up.” Backup position: Wide receiver. “I’m very fast, and I just feel unguarded when I’m at receiver,” Jones says.

reached the postseason since 2007. “It would mean a lot,” Jones says. “It would leave a good taste in our mouths and be a good feeling for the school. It would be a big confidence boost.” In addition to getting the Tornadoes back on track, Jones also hopes to rush for more than 2,000 yards and score more than 20 touchdowns this season — a feat that would put him alongside his uncle, Terrance Jones, who holds the Tornadoes’ singleseason rushing record of 2,621 yards. “I would be able to say I accomplished a big goal of mine,” Jones says. “My uncle used to go to school here, and (people) underestimated him. They said he couldn’t do it. He’s been a big inspiration all of my life.”

**All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated


— The number of points the Tornadoes allowed in theirs six losses last season.


Mike Jones, senior, running back Rashad Jones Jr., senior, wide receiver Marlon Mack, junior, running back/wide receiver

By Rachel S. O’Hara | Staff Photographer

the basics cardinal mooney High 4171 Fruitville Road, Sarasota Mascot: Cougars 2011 Record: 4-6


Aug. 31 at LaBelle (**TBA) Sept. 7 at Bishop Verot (7:30 p.m.) Sept. 14 Lake Placid Sept. 21 at Lemon Bay Sept. 28 Clearwater Central Catholic Oct. 5 at Lakeland Christian* Oct. 12 St. Petersburg Catholic Oct. 19 Frostproof* Oct. 26 BYE Nov. 2 Fort Meade* Nov. 9 at The Out-ofDoor Academy *Denotes district game **All games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated


Anthony Caiazzo, senior, running back Trey LaPorta, senior, offensive line Nick Levanduski, senior, tight end Elijah Toussaint, senior, wide receiver

CARDINAL MOONEY COUGARS Anthony Caiazzo For high school senior Anthony Caiazzo, the love affair with football started while playing flag football in third grade. By fourth grade he was a running back playing tackle football for the Sarasota Sun Devils. These days it is hard for the Cardinal Mooney senior to imagine playing any other position. “Since the first day I played football, I’ve played running back,” says Caiazzo. “That’s the position the coach put me at, and I’ve been pretty good at it so I stayed with it.” Playing running back means Caiazzo frequently runs the ball for yardage and simultaneously avoids, but also prepares for, the barrage of tackles inflicted by his opponents. How e v e r, according to Caiazzo, team momentum and being a team player is just as important as his individual job on the field. “You have to perform every single Friday night and keep your team in it,” he says. In October, Caiazzo set the Cougars’ single-game rushing record with 366 yards on 40 carries against

This high school senior has played running back since his first day on the field eight years ago.

Lakeland Christian. This feat, alone, is impressive, but Caiazzo hopes this season he will rush enough yards to beat the all-time school rushing record set by 2009 Mooney grad Steve Ierulli. Ierulli now plays football for the University of Minnesota, Duluth, but Caiazzo recalls watching him play while he was at Cardinal Mooney: “In eighth grade I went and saw his games,” Caiazzo says. “He ran the ball and was really tough. I never saw him get tackled. He was always dragging, like four people with him

and he would never go down.” Caiazzo estimates he’ll need about 1,300 more yards to break Ierulli’s 3,792-yard record, but his hard work on and off the field, both during the season and the off-season, will help him get there. “Football is pretty much year-round for me,” says Caiazzo. During the off-season he’s on the weightlifting team and also on the track and field team. He credits those sports for keeping him in shape and helping him excel during the football season. Now that his senior year is here, every yard counts. Caiazzo hopes his team will experience a winning season and plans to work extra hard to break that record, as well. “(It) would mean a lot,” he says. “In the halls they have all the great football players that have been here, and to know that I am in the same sentence as them … that would be pretty cool.”

FUN FACTS Height: 5 feet, 8 inches Weight: 174 pounds Jersey Number: 12. “When I was a little

kid and first started playing, I liked Tom Brady and (12) was his number, so I chose it and just kept it throughout the years,” Anthony Caiazzo says. Slice of advice: “My coach for the Sun Devils, Jeff Hammond, said, ‘Whatever you do in life you will be successful on and off the football field, if you give it 100%.’” Backup position: Slot receiver


with Coach JoSH SMITHERS Overall, in your opinion, how do you think your team did last season? We had a successful season. We improved from the previous year and just missed the playoffs in a heartbreaking triple overtime loss to Frostproof. What are your expectations for the team this season? We expect to improve every week and make a run at the district championship. What would you say is your team’s biggest strength? We think our offensive and defensive skill players are strong, and we have depth there. What would you say is the one area on which your team still needs to work? Get better at blocking and tackling.



with Coach JOE KINNAN You won the state title last year. How do you build upon that this season? That’s gone. This is a new year. Really, a lot of it is about the process. We’ve been to seven state championship games and we’ve won five. We’ve created a template that we know (works). We have all of the same coaches back this year, and a lot of the players and coaches have been on several championship teams. They understand the process and what it takes to get there. Now, it’s our responsibility as coaches to bring the kids to that level of preparation, so we can make a run at it and defend our title. You’re ranked No. 1 in the MaxPreps poll. How do you make sure your players aren’t affected by rankings? It’s all about the process. We prepare them for practice. They (work with) our leadership council, and our captains will make the decisions. That’s how we go about it. We haven’t been ranked No. 1 in a long time. What are your expectations this season? Our hope is to be better than we were last year. That doesn’t necessarily translate into being successful. We have a few marquee players and a pretty good supporting cast. We want to run the table and get to the state championship. We want to be district champions, so we get home field (advantage). Once you get (to the state championship game) there’s no pressure to move on, so you might as well go out and win. What do you think is the strength of this year’s team? Our defensive line: Demarcus Christmas, Derrick Calloway, Blake Keller and Marquis Dawsey. We have all four of them back, and we’ve been told they are the best in the country.




Anthony Lauro

Senior running back Anthony Lauro is focused on helping the Hurricanes maintain their No. 1 national ranking this season, as the team hopes to defend its Class 7A state championship and go undefeated. He doesn’t know how or why it happened. It just did. Growing up, Anthony Lauro wasn’t known for his speed. In fact, the Manatee High senior running back always thought he was better suited to play linebacker. But that all changed four years ago when he stepped onto Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium for the first time. Maybe it was the intense training he received. Perhaps it was the thought of having an opportunity to be a part of the Hurricanes’ storied tradition. Or, maybe it was just his competitive spirit. But when he got to high school, Lauro suddenly got faster. “I always thought of myself as more of a linebacker, but when I got to high school they put me at running back, and that’s where I’ve been ever since,” Lauro says. Since then, Lauro has become the Hurricanes’ starting running back

FUN FACTS Height: 5 feet, 10 inches Weight: 195 pounds Jersey number: 23. “It’s a

family number. It was my dad’s number in college and my uncle’s number in high school,” Anthony Lauro said. Slice of advice: “Always go 100%. If you go 100%, then you won’t get hurt.” Backup position: Strong safety. “I like to hit people,” Lauro said. “I always laugh when I get hit.”

Greetings & Best Wishes In Your New Home

Manatee High School

and also sees ample time as a slot receiver. Last season, Lauro carried the ball 82 times for 631 yards and eight touchdowns while also hauling in 51 passes for 607 yards and six touchdowns en route to helping lead the Hurricanes to the Class 7A state championship — the team’s fifth state title in seven attempts. It was the second state championship appearance for Lauro, who has his sights set on a repeat performance this season. But, with Manatee ranked No. 1 in the nation by, as well as in the Class 7A rankings and third in the nation in the USA Today poll, Lauro is even more focused on leading Manatee to an undefeated season — something that eluded the champion Hurricanes last season. “To me, it’s all about going undefeated,” Lauro says. “I just want to be better than last year. I want to have better stats, go undefeated and win another state title. “We’re ranked No. 1 and we want to stay that way,” Lauro says. “We embrace it. We’re not going to let it go to our heads. It is what it is, and that kind of just helps with the motivation because we want it to stay that way.” As he prepares to open his final season Sept. 2, Lauro, who also trains at Athletic Edge Sports in Lakewood Ranch, is hoping to have a breakout senior season with the goal of garnering the attention of college coaches. Lauro has aspirations of playing in college and has already received interest from coaches as both a running back and a slot receiver. “They both have their advantages,” Lauro says. “I like running through people sometimes, but I also like running routes and catching the ball in open space.” But, for now, Lauro’s primary focus is helping ensure the words “defending state champion” are written beside his name. “There are years of tradition (here),” Lauro says. “This school is known for its football team, and it feels good to be a part of history.”

902 33rd St. Court W., Bradenton Mascot: Hurricanes 2011 Record: 13-2


Class 7A-10 Sept. 2 — Versus Miramar (2 p.m., to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project) Sept. 7 — At Riverview Sept. 14 — Central Sept. 21 — BYE Sept. 28 — At Southeast Oct. 5 — At Braden River* Oct. 12 — Cypress Bay Oct. 19 — At Venice* Oct. 26 — Palmetto Nov. 2 — At Sarasota* Nov. 9 —  Lakewood Ranch *Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated


Cord Sandberg, senior, quarterback Anthony Lauro, senior, running back Ja Juan Pollock, senior, wide receiver Willie Smith, senior, free safety Demarcus Christmas, junior, defensive tackle Derrick Calloway, senior, defensive tackle Blake Keller, senior, defensive end Marquis Dawsey, senior defensive end

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the basics

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with Coach BRETT TIMMONS Overall, how do you think you did last season? I think “underachieved” is the word. I think last year was probably the most talented team we’ve had in the six years of my being here, but injuries and other things kept us from fulfilling our promise. What are your expectations for this season? The expectations are still the same. Our goals and aspirations are to get where we aspire to be every year. This year, we’re small in numbers, but we’ve got a (collective) spirit. They understand that we are a team and there are no individual parts that are greater than the sum. The sum is greater than the parts. What do you think is the strength of this year’s team? Community and a general love and caring for one another. That permeates from the coaches all the way down to the players. The kids are only going to go as far as we go as coaches. What is the one area that still needs improvement? We are not the biggest team in the world. We’re a collection of Davids and each week we’re going to be playing Goliath. We need to buy into it mentally, get up and play our best. If we come out and play our best — win, lose or draw — then we succeeded. We won.




Evan Wilson Evan Wilson stepped into the huddle, and, for the first time, all eyes were on him. The weight of The Out-of-Door Academy football team rested on the shoulders of the then-sophomore’s 125-pound frame. Wilson not only was making his first varsity start, but the Thunder’s playoff hopes hinged on his performance. A win against rival Bradenton Christian, and ODA would be back in the playoff picture. A loss and the Thunder’s playoff aspirations would be diminished. Wilson handled the pressure with veteran ease, throwing for nearly 250 yards and a touchdown. He also scored from a yard out in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to a 24-21 victory and an eventual berth in the postseason. “I just tried to take it like any other game,” Wilson says. Now, with his senior season finally upon him, Wilson is focused on leading ODA back to the postseason — something the Thunder missed out on last season — while providing leadership both on and off the field.

THE Observer


the basics

By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor

The Out-ofDoor Academy 5950 Deer Drive, Sarasota Mascot: Thunder 2011 Record: 5-5

After making his first varsity start as a sophomore, senior Evan Wilson is 50 pounds heavier and poised to have his most successful season on the gridiron.


“I just want to be a leader as a quarterback and a leader on the team,” Wilson says. “We have a small senior class, and it’s up to us to be the leaders of this team and try to be a close knit team.” Wilson began playing football for the East Manatee Bulldogs in third grade. He started playing quarterback.

FUN FACTS Height: 6 feet, 2 inches; Weight: 175 pounds Jersey number: 7. “I’m a huge Danny Wuerffel fan,” Evan Wilson says.

“When I was 5 years old, I knew I was going to be No. 7.” Favorite player: Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin Slice of advice: “The mark of a winning program is consistency. Winning begins in the mind. Don’t let your eyes and ears deceive you. When others say you cannot, we say we can.” Backup position: Wide receiver. “I just like catching the ball and running,” Wilson says.

“I always wanted to be a quarterback,” says Wilson. “I was always good at throwing the ball. I used to watch football on TV, and one of the positions they always (showed) was the quarterback. I always dreamed of being a quarterback.” Wilson continued playing for the Bulldogs until joining the Thunder as a freshman. Now four years later, Wilson is preparing for what he hopes will be his most productive season under center — one that will garner attention from college coaches and leave a lasting impression on his school. “I like having the constant pressure that comes with being the quarterback,” Wilson says. “You have to know what your players are doing and what every defender is doing every play. You’re accountable for 22 people every play.”

Class 2A-6 Aug. 31 at St. Pete Catholic (**TBA) Sept. 7 at Community School of Naples* Sept. 14 at Moore Haven* Sept. 21 St. John Neumann* Sept. 28 at Evangelical Christian Oct. 5 BYE Oct. 12 Imagine School of Naples Oct. 19 SW Florida Christian* (**TBA) Oct. 26 First Baptist Academy* Nov. 2 St. Stephen’s Episcopal School* (**TBA) Nov. 9 Cardinal Mooney *Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated


Evan Wilson, senior, quarterback Brandon Place, senior, wide receiver/ defensive back J.T. Fischer, freshman, running back

By Nick Friedman | Staff Writer

the basics Saint Stephen’s Episcopal 315 41st St. W., Bradenton Mascot: Falcons 2011 Record: 0-9


Aug. 31 St. John Neumann* Sept. 7 at First Baptist Academy* (7:30 p.m.) Sept. 15 — At SW Fla. Christian* (6 p.m.) Sept. 21 Gateway Charter Sept. 28 at Shorecrest (7:30 p.m.) Oct. 5 Moore Haven* (4 p.m. at Saint Stephen’s) Oct. 12 BYE Oct. 18 Evangelical Christian* Oct. 26 at Community School of Naples* Nov. 2 at ODA* Nov. 9 at Northside Christian (7:30 p.m.) *Denotes district game **All games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated ***All home games will be played at Palma Sola Park unless otherwise indicated.


Herman Israelsson Jeremy Jackman Bradley Benzant


This St. Stephen’s senior switched from soccer to football and has formed a unique bond with his new teammates.

The best piece of football advice St. Stephen’s senior Cam Tally has ever received was not from an inspirational sports movie or book, but from a quote written by Theodore Roosevelt; his coach gave it to him at the start of his first season. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,” Roosevelt wrote. “Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming … ” Originally a soccer player, Tally had never considered playing football until he met St. Stephen’s head football coach, Tod Creneti, who convinced him that he would be a good fit on the team and wouldn’t be “too skinny.” Unsure of his ability to cross over to a new sport, and after hearing some students outside of the program criticize the team on the heels of a tough season, Tally took the quote to heart. “Until you’re in the arena and you’re the one giving it your all, you don’t really have room to criticize,” says Tally. “He (Creneti) is like Mr. Inspiration. After he gave us that quote, I’ve kept it with me ever since.” Today, in addition to continuing to play soccer and running track, Tally is starting his second football season as a wide receiver and free safety. He says he’s glad he branched out to try a new sport, but it hasn’t come without challenges. “The first tackle in my first game was probably the scariest moment,” says Tally. “You’ve done all the drills, but when it comes down to it, it feels like you just forget everything and play. I’ve grown a lot since then.” Compared to other sports, Tally says he’s noticed a bonding experience and sense

of camaraderie that he feels is unique to football. After a particularly tough season last year, Tally, Creneti and the rest of the team are focused on building dedication and unity among the players. Tally says that during his first few games, he saw some of the more experienced players giving it their all and it still not being enough. This motivated the team to buckle down and take the program more seriously, and Tally is ready to prove that the team is in it wholeheartedly. “It feels like more than a sport to us,” says Tally. “It teaches you a lot of life lessons, and I’ve become best friends with the guys on the team. It’s not like anything else.”

FUN FACTS Height: 6 feet, 1 inch Weight: 157 pounds Jersey number: 11. “They call

me ‘Sticks,’ because I’m tall and skinny, so I chose 11,” says Cam Tally. Position: Wide receiver and

Q&A with Coach tod creneti

Overall, how do you think the team did last season? Last year was a huge struggle for us. These kids were working extremely hard, and they didn’t get to see the fruits of their labor. Finishing the season 0-9 means they didn’t get to see a win, and that was a real challenge, but it made all of us stronger. What strengths do you see in the team this season? We’re much more athletic with our receivers and defensive backs than we were last year, and I think there’s much better chemistry. That goes a long way. What aspect do you think needs the most improvement? We need to build our depth. Our numbers are not as high as they need to be. We need more kids to buy into this program. What challenges come along with having one of the smaller teams? We really focus our coaching on two points. One is to heavily teach the game. These kids are really bright and receptive, and they’re eager to learn. The second is to be relational. I ask all the coaches to really build relationships with these kids and help make them want to be involved. We want to show that St. Stephen’s has a good football community, and coming off of a season like last year’s, that’s a challenge.

THE Observer




By Jen Blanco | Sports Editor

SOUTHEAST SEMINOLES the basics Southeast High School

1200 37th Ave. E., Bradenton Mascot: Seminoles 2011 Record: 7-3

SCHEDULE Class 5A-10

Aug. 31 at Largo Sept. 7 Lakewood Ranch Sept. 14 Booker Sept. 21 at Sarasota Sept. 28 Manatee Oct. 5 DeSoto County* Oct. 12 Riverview Oct. 19 Bayshore* (**TBA) Oct. 26 Hardee* Nov. 2 at Palmetto* Nov. 9 BYE *Denotes district game **All games start at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise indicated


Eric Thompson, junior, quarterback/defensive back Troy Thompskin, sophomore, defensive back Jordan Grabski, junior, defensive back

Dmitry Smith Throughout Dmitry Smith’s Lakewood Ranch home hang pieces of paper that serve as constant reminders of all the Southeast High sophomore wide receiver hopes to achieve. Scribbled on one piece of paper are the words, “Make a name for myself.” Another piece of paper lists Smith’s No. 1 goal for the season — to be a part of the Seminoles’ starting varsity receiving corps. Whether it’s a goal, a piece of advice or words of encouragement, Smith writes everything down. “I always was told if you ever want to achieve something, write it out,” Smith says. “It just reminds me and helps me stay on track.” Those goals have been taped up throughout Smith’s home for weeks; and, now, with the regular season set to kick off Friday night, he is hoping his hard work will finally pay off in the form of a spot on the Seminoles’ starting wide receiving corps. Smith began playing football for the East Manatee Bulldogs when he was in second grade. At the time, Smith, who grew up in a basketball family, decided to try football to keep in shape for basketball season. With a grandfather who runs an Olympic training center in Greece while also coaching collegiate basketball, it was only natural that Smith followed in his family’s footsteps. But it wasn’t long before the thrill of making plays on the gridiron cap-

Sophomore wide receiver Dmitry Smith hopes to make an immediate impact this season after playing on the Southeast Seminoles’ junior varsity squad last fall.



with Coach Paul Maechtle Overall, how do you think last year’s team did? We were probably disappointed that we didn’t get to the playoffs. We made it three years in a row, so, for some, it may have been disappointing to be done that early. The good thing is, when the season ended, we had 29 juniors on the team. What are your expectations this season? We’re a little more experienced of a football team, which should, on paper, pay some dividends. The question then becomes will anyone stand out and be the Division I (type of) player. I don’t know that we have a bona-fide Division I player, but that’s OK if we’ve got enough other players. One thing I see because I’ve got so many juniors is a good amount of camaraderie.

tured the wide receiver’s attention. Smith started out playing defensive end and tight end before switching to wide receiver in middle school. “I like the contact,” Smith says. “I like the thrill of catching the ball and making a play.” Smith chose to attend Southeast for its IB program; and after spending last fall playing on the Seminoles’ junior varsity squad, Smith moved up to the varsity squad this spring. Now, Smith is focused on doing whatever it takes to make an immediate impact on the field. “I just want to be on the starting varsity wide receiving (corps) and make a name for myself,” Smith says.

FUN FACTS Height: 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches; Weight: 175 pounds Jersey number: 12. “I wanted No. 2 because that’s what I wore during Pop Warner,” Dmitry Smith says. “I wanted a two in the number, and I did not want to go too high.” Favorite player: Sammy

Watkins. “I saw a video he did when he chose what school he wanted to go to and his goals for his freshman year and the team. He had his goals all ready for him.”

What do you think is the biggest strength of this year’s team? Experience. We’ve got that going for us. We have both of our kickers, our quarterback, our running back and two starting receivers all back (this season). What is this team’s biggest weakness? We don’t have enough linemen-sized football players. We are short on both our offensive and defensive line. We’ve got six linemen (sized) players and you need five to start a game. The skills kids on both sides of the ball are performing well and that’s carried over into the way they performed during seven on seven. The glorified weakness becomes exponential when you put the pads on and don’t have (full) linemen kind of guys.

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