Coach: Eric Schmitz (first season)
Last season: 6-4
Colors: Garnet and gold
Stadium: Cougar Field, 300 State Road 580, Clearwater
Playoff history: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
Last appearance: Lost 28-27 to Venice.
Aug. 29 at Lakewood, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Bradenton Southeast, 7:30
Sept. 12 at Palmetto, 7:30
Sept. 19 vs. Northeast, 7:30
Oct. 2 at Clearwater, 7
Oct. 10 vs. Tarpon Springs, 7:30
Oct. 17 at East Lake, 7:30
Oct. 24 vs. Seminole, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Pinellas Park, 7:30
Nov. 7 at Largo, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Countryside at East Lake, Oct. 17: Up until last season, Countryside had owned this series, winning five straight on the field (one had to be forfeited). The Cougars fell apart in last year’s game, losing 47-3. That loss started a downward spiral as Countryside lost three of its final four games to knock itself out of playoff contention. Much like last season, the schedule is backloaded with key district games, starting with this matchup. A loss here and the Cougars likely will have to beat Pinellas Park on Oct. 31 to get back into the playoffs after a two-year absence.
New era: Eric Schmitz , the former offensive coordinator, took over the program from Jared Davis, who stepped down after four seasons. The first task for Schmitz was to get the program on track for a playoff appearance, something that has eluded the it the past two seasons. The participation in offseason conditioning has been encouraging, and the Cougars performed well in 7-on-7 tournaments. “These guys have worked their tails off all summer,” Schmitz said.
Plenty of points: Schmitz has the luxury of working with a veteran group of skill players. Trent Chmelik takes over as the full-time starting quarterback and has a receiving corps that is one of the deepest in the county. The Cougars showed what they could do in the spring, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another in a 28-13 win over Citrus.
Hold that line: If there was one concern on offense last season, it was the play of the line. At times the unit had trouble in pass protection. But the group is more experienced this season, with the strength coming on the right side of the line, led by returning starter Max Fuller at guard and Dixie Hollins transfer Riley Metheney at tackle.
Defensive improvement: Once a staple of the program, the defense took some lumps after trying to replace nearly every starter along the front seven. In the final four games, Countryside gave up 156 points. The production should improve with a deep secondary that is more than capable of making up for the loss of Mike Johnson, who is now at Iowa State. The defensive line and linebackers also will have more experience. In the spring, the Cougars forced three fumbles against Citrus, converting two of those into touchdowns.
Next in line: Countryside has a knack for producing college-bound kickers. Martin Turwoski could be next. The senior has been consistent on field goals, and Schmitz said his kickoffs have improved by 5-10 yards.
QB Trent Chmelik, Jr.: Now that Chmelik is the full-time starter, he should put up even bigger numbers than the 588 yards and four touchdowns he had last season.
DB Damien Howard, Sr.: The top returner in the secondary had a team-leading four interceptions last season.
WR Slyvester Kimbrough, Sr.: The top deep threat among a solid group of receivers, Kimbrough finished last season with a team-leading 423 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
WR/DB Chris Ryan, Sr.: Sure-handed receiver had 414 yards and two touchdowns last season and was one of Chmelik’s favorite targets in 7-on-7 tournaments this summer.
RB/DB Dante Satcher, Jr.: The team’s top returning rusher had 695 yards, including more than 100 yards in each of his final two games.
TE/DL Chris Barrett, Jr.: The basketball player has turned into a dependable target in the passing game and should put up numbers in an offense that likes to utilize the tight end.
OL/DL Riley Metheny, Sr.: The Dixie Hollins transfer already has an offer from Alabama-Birmingham and solidifies the right tackle spot.
DL Thomas Roman, Jr.: He competes in strongman competitions in the offseason and will help anchor an improving defensive line,
DB Jarek Vance, Sr.: Schmitz describes Vance as the Troy Polamalu of the defense with an ability to wreak havoc from anywhere on the field.
LB Taylor Zahralban, Sr.: The returning starter is a solid tackler and provides experience for what should be an improved front seven on defense.
“The goal is to make the playoffs. These guys can feel it. That’s been their whole purpose and drive this offseason. They’re really working to get back there.” — Eric Schmitz