CLEARWATER — They broke ground on Clearwater Central Catholic’s new 5-acre athletic complex Thursday afternoon, with players, coaches and administrators taking turns heaving shovelfuls of dirt into the air from the 50-yard line.
After the 3 p.m. ceremony, the bulldozers had their turn as construction began in earnest.
The $1.368 million project is expected to be completed in parts and will include, in time, new bleachers, a new entrance and a new press box.
But the field, football coach John Davis’ biggest concern, will be ready to go for the Marauders’ home opener against Lakeland Christian.
“The kids are excited as heck about this,” said Davis, who returned to CCC two years ago and immediately began stressing the importance of a new football field.
The original stadium was built in 1962, and not much has been done to it since.
“Obviously we need a new stadium,” said Davis, who said he lost five practices to rain last year that made the field unplayable.
The past three years the conditions have been the butt of jokes, including being parodied in an opening on the Times football Web show, Friday Night Rewind, last year.
The complex will include an 1,100-seat stadium and state-of-the-art field turf. The synthetic turf field is approximately $320,000, the new bleachers will cost $250,000 and the new track is priced at $200,000.
Also in the plans: a $250,000 “CCC Fan Experience,” with new ticket offices, concession stands, restrooms and a Marauder Plaza and Walk of Champions.
The name of the new stadium? That’s undecided, though for $500,000 you can buy the naming rights. And if that’s too pricey, $200,000 can get your name on the turf field.
Turning on the jets
CCC archival St. Petersburg Catholic can’t afford a new stadium, but how about a new offense?
Second-year coach Steve Dudley said the Barons are abandoning the I-formation for the jet offense, something he said he picked up from a coach in Oregon.
“It will feature Ryan (Green), of course,” said Dudley. “It will be based on a little more misdirection, a little more deception.”
The jet offense is like the wing-T, ideal for teams with smaller offensive linemen but intended to force defenses to respect the pass as well. It’s also ideal for getting speed to the edges, and SPC has lots of speed in guys like prep All-American Green, a 4.4 back.
“I don’t think we’re going to blow people off the ball so we needed an offense that has a lot of misdirection,” said Dudley, who confessed his team may have stayed with power football too long last season with such a undersized, inexperienced line.
“What do defenses hate? Trying to tackle guys in space. Overloaded formations,” he said. “Unbalanced lines. All of the things I hate as a defensive coach, this offense has it.”
Canterbury coach Bill Jones said his kicking game was so bad a few years ago that he suggested going for two after every touchdown and an onside kick every kickoff. But he said lineman Matt Wylie took it upon himself to learn how to kick so the Crusaders could prevent that.
The result? A 5-foot-10, 230-pound kicker who gets the ball in the end zone 85 percent of the time and has made kicks of 50-plus yards this spring.
“He’s one of the best kickers in the county now,” Jones said. “He’s kicked some 57-yarders in practice. Now we have a big weapon on special teams that we didn’t have in the past."
East Lake’s Mason Cole and Artavis Scott, two of the most touted prospects in the 2014 class, received offers from Ohio State on Thursday, coach Bob Hudson said via text message.
Cole and Scott have offers from Florida State and are expected to have plenty from major Division I colleges before spring practice ends.
Last year, Cole, an offensive tackle, anchored a line that paved the way for Tyler Lane to rush for than 1,500 yards. Scott, a receiver, emerged as a big-time threat with 1,158 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Cole and Mason are expected to get plenty of attention from college scouts Saturday when East Lake plays defending Class 7A state champion Bradenton Manatee in a referee’s scrimmage at Calvary Christian.
• Countryside defensive lineman Mike Love picked up offers from Central Florida and UCF, coach Jared Davis said. Love, the Times’ 2011 defensive player of the year, has more than 10 offers from Division I schools, including Louisville, Mississippi State and N.C. State.
• St. Petersburg Catholic tight end Reilly Gibbons, who has an offer from Tennessee, received one from Rutgers.
Compiled by staff writers John C. Cotey, Rodney Page and Bob Putnam.