This offseason, Clearwater Central Catholic coach John Davis had the unenviable task of trying to replace quarterback Nick Newton, a gifted athlete who will be playing at Presbyterian this fall.
Davis has a stable of quarterbacks. Blake Gomez has moved up from junior varsity and is battling former Dunedin junior varsity quarterback Jake Shade and former Countryside JV quarterback Jake Hood, who both transferred.
“They all bring a little something different,” Davis said. “You’d like to be able to take all their traits and put them into one quarterback.”
But the three-way battle has been reduced to one, at least for the spring. Hood has a sprained knee and will be held out of Friday’s game against Seminole for precautionary measures. And Shade is ineligible to play because he transferred during the semester. That leaves Gomez.
Another test for CCC is to see how the offensive line holds up. Davis is high on Ian Koch and said he is starting to get noticed by colleges. But the big concern is depth. Davis hopes a few players come through so he doesn’t have to use too many linemen on both sides of the ball.
Two-minute drill | Tarpon Springs QB Louis Pappas
A couple minutes with the rising senior, a 1,700-yard passer last season who is starting to gain interest from colleges.
How much different is this spring compared to last year when you were learning a new offense in coach Atif Austin’s debut?
It’s 100 percent better. I have this offense down now. I can read it like a book. Honestly it’s like night and day compared to last spring. This past year, I really got to know this offense and what Coach Austin wants out of me.
Describe what it’s like having your top receivers, Runaldo Wright and Kenyatta Merriex, back this season?
It’s a huge plus. I know this season can be great because I have all of my receivers. There’s a lot of experience throwing the ball to these guys and there’s good chemistry. I pretty much grew up throwing with these guys my whole life.
What has life been like since retrieving the cross during the Epiphany celebration in January?
It’s been a crazy experience. It affects everything I do. I think about the cross and what that means for my family and everyone in the community. I just hope that shows out in the football field. It’s supposed to be good luck for the year, and I believe that it will be.
You have a lot of skill players returning. But you lose a lot on the offensive line. How is that group coming along?
Those guys are young. But they have a lot of heart and determination to get better. We have everything else in place. The offensive linemen know they’re the make-or-break point. They’re trying to outwork everyone back there. I’m pushing them, too. They realize that. They’re putting everything they have into it.
Last year was a breakout season for you. Are you starting to get a lot of interest from colleges?
Oklahoma State offered me to come on as a preferred walk-on this past week. North Texas has been giving me a lot of love. I’m pretty excited about that. USF’s Peter Vaas watched me for about an hour. Samford came to watch me. Ohio University and Western Kentucky have been recruiting me pretty hard. I’ve had scouts come by almost every day in practice. It’s been good.
What’s the goal this season?
To win a district championship and get Tarpon back to where we used to be. After that, the sky is the limit.
Replacements in the running game
Last year Seminole relied heavily on the running of Trevor Sand and Teddy Willis, who are both graduating. But Warhawks coach Sam Roper doesn’t think there will be much drop-off in production with the group of running backs set to replace them. Brandon Trezza saw playing time last year as a runner and receiver and should get plenty of work in Friday’s game. The other two running backs are Beau Browning and Devin Kalck.