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The monotony of banging pads against teammates ends this weekend for most private schools in Pinellas County. Now the real fun begins. There are six games tonight and one Saturday night involving eight of the nine private schools. (Canterbury is the only one not playing.)
After a month of practice, a lot of questions can be answered in the final test of spring. Here is a breakdown of the games.
Two games tonight feature playoff teams from last season. Admiral Farragut, which made the Class 2A state championship game, travels to play Berkeley Prep, a 3A state semifinalist in 2011.
The Blue Jackets still have plenty of playmakers, led by Todd Macon and Napoleon Maxwell. But they need to find out how well their young offensive line can perform against a quality opponent. AFA’s defense will be tested by Buccaneers quarterback Brad Mayes, a rising sophomore who takes over as the starter.
Clearwater Central Catholic, which advanced to the 3A region quarterfinals as runnerup last season, plays at Hernando, which advanced to 6A region quarterfinals. The Marauders’ defense could be one of the best in the county but it will be a depleted unit tonight with four starters out with injuries, including Division I recruit Michael Stevenson. The defensive back injured his jaw in a pickup basketball game. They will have to stop the Leopards’ Tyrail Hawkins, who can line up in a multitude of positions.
Last season, Indian Rocks Christian’s defense was a liability, allowing 20 points or more in each of the final seven games. The Golden Eagles went 3-4 down the stretch and failed to make the playoffs.
Thanks to a prolific offense, IRC was able to stay in most games. But the offense lost much of its firepower with quarterback Casey Woods (30 touchdown passes) and receiver Sean Culkin (18 touchdown receptions) graduating.
A young defense that took its lumps a year ago will be counted on this season. The first test is a doozy. The Golden Eagles face SPC running back Ryan Green, one of the most recruited athletes in the country.
Green kick-started his 2011 season by putting on a show against IRC in last year’s spring game, finishing with 206 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The hoopla surrounding their hiring as coaches is over. For the past month, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer standouts Dave Moore and Mike Alstott have been able to get down to the real work of their trade.
They were able to get out of the office and the video room and look forward to the promise of a new season. It was time, at last, for blocking and tackling, X’s and O’s, fundamentals and execution.
The good stuff.
Now, it’s time to see whether their preparation has paid off as both make their coaching debuts.
Moore, who takes over at Shorecrest, faces Bradenton Christian in a game tonight. Alstott, the newly hired coach at Northside Christian, travels to play Central Florida Christian on Saturday.
Both have daunting tasks. The Chargers and Mustangs have young teams with little depth. What they do have is renewed enthusiasm thanks to some big-name hires.
Keswick Christian and Calvary Christian have the personnel to throw the ball more than their other private school counterparts this spring. But their passing games are a work in progress.
The Crusaders have the skill players, led by three-year starting quarterback Taylor Angell. But Keswick has to see how well an offensive line that lost four starters to graduation holds up when it travels to play Sarasota Out-of-Door tonight.
The Warriors, meanwhile have the athletes, led by brothers Allen and Derek Barnes. Both can line up as a runner or receiver and will get the ball as much as possible in Calvary’s new pistol offense. But Calvary still has to work out some kinks with its new system when it hosts Community School of Naples tonight.
In last week’s scrimmage against Dixie Hollins, the Warriors fumbled five times on the snap exchange.