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Alonso: 2014 football preview

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Wed. August 20, 2014 | Kelly Parsons

Alonso: 2014 football preview

Alonso

Coach: Brian Emanuel (16-14, fourth season)

Last season: 5-5

Class/district: 8A-6

Colors: Navy, gold and white

Stadium: Ravens Stadium, 8302 Montague St., Tampa

Playoff history: 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010

Last appearance: Lost 49-20 to Newsome.

Season schedule

Aug. 29 at Jefferson, 7:30

Sept. 5 vs. Steinbrenner, 7

Sept. 12 vs. East Bay, 7:30

Sept. 19 at Newsome, 7:30

Sept. 26 at Spoto, 7:30

Oct. 2 vs. Bloomingdale, 7

Oct. 17 vs. Wharton, 7:30

Oct. 24 at Riverview, 7:30 

Oct. 31 at Plant, 7:30 

Nov. 7 vs. Sickles, 7:30

Mark your calendar

Alonso at Newsome, Sept. 19: Though Alonso could have tougher district opponents in Plant and Bloomingdale later in the season, the Ravens’ open their district campaign against Newsome and the outcome will likely give one team a leg up in the hunt for the second playoff spot. Last season Alonso lost 38-26 to Newsome  on its way to a fifth-place finish in the district. The Ravens, though, have their sights set much higher, so a win against the Wolves is a must.

Huddle highlights

7-on-7 success: Alonso made waves in the 7-on-7 circuit this summer, winning the Battle of the Bay title and losing in the semifinal round of USF’s Sling-N-Shoot. Coach Brian Emanuel knows that doesn’t necessarily translate to the football field on Friday nights, but he is using that success as a motivating factor to his offense and defensive lines. The skills players have proven their abilities, he says; now the lines have to let them do their jobs.

Line woes: The Ravens graduated four of their starting five from an under-performing offensive line, including Georgia Tech’s Gary Brown. The lone returner, Christian Loubriel, has been moved to guard, but he’ll be surrounded by youth and inexperience. “That is certainly the question mark,” Emanuel said. “If that can jell, we’ll be pretty dang good. If it takes longer, we’ll be okay.”

Oladokun knows the O: Oladokun has had some big moments in 7-on-7 this summer, and Emanuel thinks that’ll continue once he puts on the pads. The junior quarterback has gained 15-20 pounds in the offseason and has a strong grasp on the playbook, his coach said. “He’s got a chance to be one of the best in the state,” Emanuel added.

Closing time: Without hesitation Emanuel said his team’s biggest weakness last season was finishing games, citing late-game turnovers and giving up big plays as the things that held the Ravens down. Alonso fell to Bloomingdale by three points and Sickles by four — games in which the Ravens had at least one turnover. If the Ravens can cut down on their own mistakes as time winds down, they should be able to keep themselves in games.

A defensive difference: Kirk Karsen, the former Sickles defensive coordinator, joined the Alonso coaching staff in the offseason, and Emanuel already sees a huge difference in his defense. Karsen, who had previously worked with Emanuel at both Hillsborough and Gaither, knows how to take an opponent’s game plan away, Emanuel said, and that’s something that could be huge as Alonso tries to cut down on opponents’ big offensive plays down the stretch.

Known quantities

QB Chris Oladokun, Jr.: Oladokun threw for 2,002 yards and 23 touchdowns last season while throwing just three interceptions and completing nearly half of his pass attempts. Emanuel admits he held back on using Oladokun to his full potential, instead stressing a run game led by Missouri running back Ish Witter. But now that the 6-foot-1, 170-pound quarterback has proven he can be one of the best around, Emanuel will no doubt take advantage of his offensive weapon.

LB/DE Jeremy Martinez, Sr.: Martinez led the Ravens last season with 76 tackles, 10 for loss, while contributing three sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries. Considering the help the Ravens need up front, returning such a big tackler is a huge advantage for Alonso.

ATH Roosevelt Lawrence, Sr.: No. 56 on our HomeTeam 100, Lawrence makes waves all over the field — recording 569 kick and punt return yards while coming up with 70 tackles and four interceptions on defense. “He’s the kingpin of our secondary,” Emanuel said.

WR/DB Terryl Scott, Sr.: Scott had 46 tackles and an interception last season, but Emanuel expects the two-way player to have more of an impact on the offensive side of the ball, perhaps stepping in for graduated receiver Marcus Mosley, who led the Ravens in receiving in 2013.

ATH Kelvin Clemmons, Jr.: Clemmons, No. 78 in the HomeTeam 100, rushed for nearly 200 yards and one touchdown in seven games last season, but the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Raven proved this summer that he has the athleticism and versatility to bring more to the table.

Up-and-comers

DE Regan Upshaw, Sr.: Though Upshaw, son of former Buc Regan Upshaw, has played rugby and hockey, he’s never before played football. That said, Emanuel sees great potential in the athletic rookie and expects the 6-foot, 215-pound defender to have a big first year anchoring a defensive line on which there will be lots of pressure to perform.

DL/OL Jordon Smiley, Sr.: A converted basketball player, Smiley is also relatively new to the sport, but the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Raven’s size and athleticism will be a big help on both the offensive and defensive lines.

RB Zantavius Showers, Sr.: Showers rushed for 218 yards and one touchdown last season while adding 104 yards and one touchdown through the air. But now that star running back Ish Witter has moved on, Showers should be the main event and has the potential to be a 1,000-yard rusher.

ATH Josh Elias, Jr.: Elias packs a lot of speed into his 5-foot-7 frame, and he made some flashy plays in some of Alonso’s 7-on-7 games this summer. More of a scatback-type, Elias’ style is different than Showers, making the combo something to which Emanuel is looking forward. “I think he could be deadly being the change of pace for Zantavius,” he said.

Coach’s corner

“It’s fun. Having a three-time state champion in your district, if you’re a competitor, that’s what you want.” — Emanuel 

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