Tuesday’s opening night of North Suncoast passing league gave coaches glimpses of players who could be key components in the fall. Here are three familiar names that stood out and three new names worth remembering.
Players to watch
Josh Maisel, QB, River Ridge: As one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the area, the Royal Knights senior is coming off a season in which he completed only 41 percent of his passes and threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. If 7-on-7 is any indication, Maisel seems to be forming solid connections with receivers David Bond and Noah Golbin.
“He has matured so much since last year,” coach Ryan Benjamin said. “He used to just be comfortable throwing the deep ball, but now he has done a much better job of looking for the high-percentage completion.”
Tyler Mahla, QB, Springstead: The 7-on-7 program does not highlight the junior’s strengths. A steady passer, Mahla is able to open up when he creates misdirection with the option and his legs. However, his progression in the passing game is evident. His brother James, a former Springstead quarterback, followed a similar pattern of improvement during his prep career from 2005-08.
Chris Klyap, QB, Gulf: Klyap burst on the scene last year after some turmoil for the Buccaneers. A former wide receiver, he was willing to make the position switch, and coach Tom Carter found a gem. In Tuesday’s 18-13 win over Nature Coast in 7-on-7, Klyap was 10-of-19 for 128 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
New names on the radar
Ryan Quigley, QB, Nature Coast: Quarterback has always been a need for the Sharks, with a revolving door of candidates filling the spot each season. In need of a passing game to balance out the rushing attack of standout RB Matt Breida, Quigley, a junior, has become a front-runner. He played limited time in the spring game against Lecanto behind Luis Espinosa, but 7-on-7 could boost Quigley, who went 7-of-15 for 80 yards and two touchdowns Tuesday.
Travis Thomas, RB/DB, Gulf: No one received higher praise from coach Tom Carter than this junior. Thomas was a major player in the secondary, forcing several key turnovers. This season Thomas could find himself a key on the offensive side as well. “I wish I could have 11 (players) just like him,” Carter said.
Avery Welch, WR/DB, Gulf: This sophomore made some spectacular catches for the Buccaneers on Tuesday. His 35-yard leaping reception over two Nature Coast defenders set up a 5-yard touchdown catch he made on the same drive. Although he is only 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Welch is noted by Carter to have terrific work ethic.
“It’s important for my guys to understand that 7-on-7 is all about athletes on athletes. If you can’t beat your man one-on-one and make the play, we’re going to lose.” — Charles Liggett, Nature Coast coach
• FAU offered scholarships to Pasco DL Joey Ivie and RB David Emmanuel, Ivie said. Ivie committed to Florida over the weekend. But the Owls are the first in-state school to offer Emmanuel, a first-team, all-Suncoast running back as a junior who also has an offer from Rutgers.
• Hernando ATH Tyrail Hawkins, LB Darren Hambrick, RB/LB O’Mar Hawkins and LB Robert Hill Bronson made a visit to Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., over the weekend. The Mountaineers have landed Hernando players before; Thomas Bronson signed in 2011.
• Hernando FB/LB Jeremiah Jackson, a Class of 2014 prospect, said he will visit Miami this weekend.
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.