Prep Squads Look Promising For Spring Games
By Jeff Navin // May 5, 2012
Back To Work
BREVARD COUNTY • PALM BAY, FLORIDA – Football became a little more like football on Friday as high schools teams around the Space Coast put on their pads for the first time during spring practice.
It also was appropriate that it happened on a Friday, when most of the games are played during the fall. Of the 16 teams in Brevard County that plan to play a Spring Game, 14 of those teams will play Friday, May 25.
Five of those games will involve Space Coast-area teams playing other Space Coast teams.
Count Cocoa coach John Wilkinson among the coaches happy to see practices become a little more physical.
“Practice has been good so far,” said Wilkinson, whose Tigers won state titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“You can’t tell a lot when they’re just wearing shorts and helmets. We’d kind of like to find out when can hit and who can run the ball.”
Cocoa will host perennial state power Dr. Phillips of Orlando at 7 p.m. May 25.
“We’re going to treat it like a regular-season game,” Wilkinson said. “We’re preparing for Dr. Phillips like it’s four weeks into one week.”
Wilkins has been impressed with the play of running backs Taurean Folston, Antwan Lee and Lorenzo Pratt during practice. Offensive lineman Trayvon Johnson, defensive lineman Deondre Barnett, linebacker Demarcus Sweeting and defensive back Jamel Jackson also have stood out.
“I think we’re more hungry and that’ll make us better,” Wilkinson said. “We’re not happy with third place. It’s sort of left a bad taste in our mouths. The kids are working hard. We’re looking for inside linebackers – we graduated three of the best we’ve ever had.”
Cocoa opened its season with difficult out-of-state games in 2011 and fell to 0-3 to open the season. It eventually won its district and cruised to a 65-0 victory against Clewiston and a 55-0 victory against Dunbar to open the Class 4A state playoffs. The Tigers lost a 20-14 heartbreaker in overtime to Booker T. Washington of Miami in the state semifinals to finish 8-5.
“We raised the bar and the kids expect to win state championships,” Wilkinson said. “They’re working hard to get back to the top of the mountain. Dr. Phillips will be a good test, and it will give the kids a challenge heading into the summer.”
New Titusville coach Andy Price saw how good Cocoa can be when his Warner Christian team was trounced by Cocoa during the regular season.
“I’m still trying to get situated, to see where everything is at and how things are run,” said Price, who compiled a 113-45 record in 13 seasons at Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona. “Football is football. There are specific things we can improve on the offensive side. And on the defensive side, there are things I wouldn’t have done as far as technique.”
Warner Christian made 12 playoff appearances under Price, including six district titles. The Eagles were state runners-up in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“On offense, some coaches will tinker with a different offense and do less, but be better at it,” Price said. “Some coaches are good at everything. Some coaches are great at one thing. I’m like that. I want us to be very good running our power counters, traps and sweeps. The terminology we use now will be what we will hear when we play Viera in November. It won’t change. I want them to have a level of confidence where they get used to something.”
Price has been happy with the play of wide receiver Alex Joyner, defensive lineman Daniel Jones and running back Darius Young. So far, 60 players have reported for the varsity. An additional 51 players hope to play for the freshmen team.
“The plan is to get a handful of sophomores who can play right away and who we can count on,” Price said. “We’re at two platoon right now. I don’t know if it will stay that way. Once we see where everyone fits, we may have to play with some on both sides of the ball.”
Titusville will travel to Space Coast for its Spring Game at 6:30 p.m. May 25.
Just up the road at Astronaut High, longtime coach Randy Hallock also faces a challenge.
“We’re inexperienced – really green,” Hallock said. “We have a lot of spots to fill – fullback, running back, four offensive linemen and two wide receivers. We might start a sophomore quarterback. We’re so young that pretty much everything is fundamentals right now. We lost a lot of seniors – 23.”
Hallock and his coaching staff are not running from the situation.
“We’re having a blast coaching them hard,” Hallock said. “The kids are working hard. Traditionally, we’re a perennial playoff team. We do well what we do. Every year, we work our butts off.”
The War Eagles will face Melbourne on the road at 7 p.m. May 25.
“Todd Wilson always does a good job at Melbourne,” Hallock said. “They’ll be big and physical and a challenge for us. But I’m more concerned with taking care of what we have to take care of. We need to shore up on each little thing.”
Melbourne is coming off a 9-3 season in which it reached the second round of the state playoffs.
“We’re young on defense and we need to figure some things out,” Wilson said. “There’s open competition to get 22 kids ready to start. Our kicking is an issue. Everyone is new and young there.”
Two linebackers could be the heart of the team.
“I think Ayshad Thorton and Nick Pennella are looking good,” Wilson said.
Cocoa Beach coach Tony Piccalo is impressed with his squad this spring.
“We’ve been inundated with college coaches,” Piccalo said. “David Dessent, our quarterback, and Boon Lewis, a wide receiver, are being recruited by numberous Division I coaches. Jamaal Eveillard (running back) and Antoine Griffin (wide receiver) have looked good. They spent a lot of the winter months throwing the ball on their own.”
Cocoa Beach will travel to Heritage for a 7 p.m. May 25 matchup.
“We will do everything on offense,” Piccalo said. “There’s not anything on offense we can’t do. This is the most skilled team Cocoa Beach probably has ever seen. That’s why so many schools are recruiting our players.”
Linemen Aaron Holznagle, Ashton Esparza and Zack Oliver have played well in spring practice. Will it be enough?
“The offensive and defensive lines have got be our concern,” Piccalo said. “We have a number of young linemen. We don’t want to have guys going both ways, so we’ve got to create depth in our interior lines. We need to shore up our kicking game and we need an effective punter.”
Satellite coach Andrew Disney is pleased with his spring turnout. Disney is beginning his fourth season as the team’s coach.
“We have 65 committed for the fall,” said Disney, whose Scorpions finished 2-8 last season. “Those are quality numbers and I expect a couple more from baseball once they finish the season. We’ll try to get 25 percent of our playbook in, but the scheme is not our main emphasis. We want to get better with the fundamentals, especially with the freshmen coming out and the new upperclassmen. We have to get tougher physically and mentally.”
Linebacker Grady Kable led the area in tackles last season.
“We want our 16 and 17 year olds to understand the investment it takes to play in September,” Disney said. “There’s a different perspective to do the things that will help you win each and every day. Mentally, it’s not football season. But for us (the coaches), it is. If we’re in it together, we can be competitive and successful each and every game.”
Satellite will travel to Eau Gallie to face the Commodores at 7 p.m. May 25.
“Eau Gallie has a similar-type program,” Disney said. “Tim Powers came on as their coach a year after me. Historically, Satellite and Eau Gallie have a healthy program. We don’t play each other in the fall.”
Daniel Kroupa and Tristan Palmer are batting to be the starting quarterback for Eau Gallie.
“They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them,” Powers said. “I look forward to seeing both guys play.”
Powers said 65 players reported for spring practice on the first day, with 60 returning after that.
“We’re getting the young guys some reps,” Powers said. “I feel good about everything so far. All 22 spots are wide open.”
Offensive lineman Shane O’Keefe has played well in the early going.
“We’re much more confident,”said Powers, who graduated from Eau Gallie in 2001 and went on to play for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “We haven’t won as much as I’d like, but the program is in better shape and headed in the right direction.”
Melbourne Central Catholic will host Miami Doral at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 19 in the first of the 11 scheduled spring contests involving football teams on the Space Coast. Florida Air Academy will travel to Kissimmee Gateway for a 7 p.m. game on Thursday, May 24.
In other games scheduled for Friday, May 25, Holy Trinity will face John Carroll in a 6 p.m. road game; Bayside will host Merritt Island at 7 p.m.; Rockledge will travel to Stuart to take on Martin County at 7 p.m.; and Palm Bay will host Palm Beach Seminole at 7 p.m.
The Pirates have qualified for the state playoffs each season since head coach Dan Burke took over in 1996. They also have won two state titles.