By  //  October 4, 2012

Cocoa Senior Confident About Meeting Minutemen

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – Antwan Lee thinks the rest of the state needs a geography lesson, and the Cocoa High running back is ready to teach the course without a textbook, blackboard or a piece of chalk.

Cocoa's Antwan Lee has rushed for 358 yards this season on 59 carries through the first four games for the Tigers. (Image by Steve WIlson)

“There still are some people out of town and around the state who call us Cocoa Beach and don’t respect us as Cocoa,” said Lee, whose Tigers (2-2) travel to Cocoa Beach (5-0) on Friday for a pivotal Class 4A, District 5 contest against the Minutemen.

“I guess we still need to come out and make a name for ourselves.”

That’s hard to believe after the Tigers claimed three consecutive state football titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010 before being ousted in the state semifinals last season.

It’s not always a day at the beach; a lot of the hard work is done west of the causeways in Brevard County.

“We want to hit them in the mouth early, pound the ball and see how much they can take.” Cocoa’s Antwan Lee about the Tigers’ matchup Friday against Cocoa Beach.

Whoever prevails on Friday night in Cocoa Beach will have an advantage in the four-team district alignment, which also includes Orlando Jones and Lake Highland Prep. Only the top two teams will advance to the state playoffs, with the district champion guaranteed a home game to start the postseason.

“We have athletes all over,” said Lee, who rushed for 112 yards on 17 carries last week as Cocoa blanked Merritt Island 17-0. “We should be able to block them and match up with them. We want to hit them in the mouth early, pound the ball and see how much they can take.”

Contrast in styles

The district opener for both schools could be a contrast in styles. Cocoa Beach likes to throw the ball with David Dessent and a talented group of receivers, which includes Boone Lewis and Antoine Griffin. Dessent has completed 77 of 120 passes for 1,217 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.

Lewis has caught 30 of those passes for 416 yards and seven touchdowns. Griffin has 17 receptions for 245 yards. Jamaal Eveillard has rushed for 521 yards and six touchdowns on 66 carries. He also has caught 15 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns.

“They do a great job over there,” Cocoa coach John Wilkinson said. “Their quarterback (Dessent) has done a great job and they have some athletes at receiver. But, we like to play against teams that spread it out.”

Cocoa has relied on a potent running game to whittle time off the clock and record two consecutive victories after a humbling 49-3 loss at home to University High of Fort Lauderdale.

Tarean Folston has rushed for 361 yards on 71 carries, Lee has 358 yards on 59 carries and Lorrenzo Pratt has added 276 yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries. At times, Folston has lined up at quarterback in a wildcat formation.

“This will be the fifth game in a row where we’ve gone up against an undefeated team,” Wilkinson said. “Whoever we play is tough. The only thing we can be sure of is that if we win all three (district games), we’ll be the district champion. The first one is what we’re concentrating on.”

Lee also plays defensive back for the Tigers and he’s ready for an additional challenge when he’s not carrying the ball.

“I’m really excited about this game,” the 18-year-old Lee said. “I like it when they throw the ball a lot. It’s easier to get interceptions and we always want to get that pick six.”

Don’t expect the Tigers to get overconfident, however.

Besides taking handoffs as a running back, Cocoa's Antwan Lee also plays cornerback for the Tigers. (Image by Steve Wilson)

Play as team

“We learned after that game against University that we needed to play as a team instead of as individuals,” Lee said. “We let go of that loss and were able to deal with the next week.”

A solid 28-0 shutout against Warner Christian and the 17-0 blanking of Merritt Island soon followed.

“I’m following my blocks better and reading blocks better,” Lee said. “I’ve also gotten faster and stronger since last year. In addition to the stuff at the school, I got a membership to Planet Fitness this summer. They’re open 24 hours and I’d wake up early in the morning and work at my own pace. There was no waiting in line.”

Wilkinson sees the difference in his senior.

“Antwan’s become a harder runner and a much better blocker,” Wilkinson said. “He’s more of a leader now that he’s a captain.”

Wilkinson affectionately calls the trio of Folston, Lee and Pratt his three-headed monster. The three also are good friends.

“I like to pound it more between the tackles than going outside. But, if there’s space, I can make a couple people miss.” Cocoa’s Antwan Lee

“We joke and play around with each other,” Lee said. “But, it’s a serious competition and we like to block for each other. Lorrenzo is more of a speed back and he can hit the holes hard and fast. Tarean likes to run hard at those holes, too. I like to pound it more between the tackles than going outside. But, if there’s space, I can make a couple people miss.”

At 5-foot-6 and 179 pounds, Lee will have to rely on his speed when he moves on to college football after this season.

“I’ll have to get my grades right first and then I’ll give college all I’ve got,” he said. “I know I’ll have to hit the weight room really hard. I could play slot back or even at cornerback. I’d like to stay in the state. I’m still my mom’s (Cynthia Hillery) baby boy, and she wants me close by so she can watch me play.”