Coach: Bill Browning (eighth season, 40-33; 25th overall, 132-118)
Last season: 9-2
Colors: Black, gold and teal
Stadium: Sunlake Stadium, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., Land O’Lakes
Playoff history: 2011, 2013
Last appearance: Lost 17-14 to Gainesville.
Aug. 29 at Pasco, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. River Ridge, 7:30
Sept. 12 at Anclote, 7:30
Sept. 19 vs. Springstead, 7:30
Sept. 26 vs. Ridgewood, 7:30
Oct. 3 at Mitchell, 7:30
Oct. 10 at Wesley Chapel, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Land O’Lakes, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Fivay, 7:30
Nov. 7 vs. Zephyrhills, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Sunlake at Pasco, Aug. 29: Sure, we know the district games with Land O’Lakes and Springstead will be more important in the long run, but the Seahawks are making a run at being the top program in Pasco County. And to be the man, well, you have to keep beating Pasco, which the Seahawks knocked off 17-6 last fall. The Pirates will be improved and as the only team to hold running back Nathan Johnson under 100 yards last year, an excellent test for an offense that will have a lot of new starters up front. “It’s a good challenge to start the season,” coach Bill Browning said.
Start fast: Season-opening wins seem to set the tone at Sunlake. In the past four seasons, Sunlake has posted a 36-7 record, and the common denominator in each season has been a victory to start it. Sunlake is perfect in the last four season openers, outscoring opponents 152-18.
Finish stronger: The Seahawks’ only two losses last season were heartbreakers. Springstead scored with 48 seconds left to win the district title, and Gainesville kicked a field goal with 8.8 seconds left to end Sunlake’s season in the first round of the playoffs.
Filling holes: Sunlake returns the county rushing champion in Nathan Johnson, but only returns one of the blockers that helped pave the way to 1,504 yards — center James Reynolds. One other returner has switched to the defensive line, and another hurt his knee in the spring. Still, Browning says “we’ve got some horses to work with,” and he’s confident suitable blockers will be in place.
Brawny: Browning said the Seahawks, who have gained a reputation as being one of the most physical teams in the county, will again try and bully opponents with a grind-it-out style on offense and hard hitting on defense. “If we’re not a physical football team, I’ll be disappointed,” he said.
Bricks in the wall: Not only does Sunlake have to replenish its offensive line, but defensively the team loses nine starters from a unit that was the county’s best. The Seahawks only let one team break 14 points all season (Land O’Lakes scored 21, but still lost) and allowed just 7.1 points a game. Linebackers Logan Wolfe and Austin Yeloushan are the only players back who had more than 10 tackles last season.
RB Nathan Johnson, Sr.: Johnson (5-9, 205) ran for 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, and after being held to 63 in the season opener by Pasco, reeled off 10 straight 100-yard games to end the season. He’ll run behind new blockers, but will be counted on to carry the offense again. “He might not have all the so-called measurables that these college recruiters are looking for, but the best compliment I can give him is he is a football player,” said Browning.
LB Austin Yeloushan, Sr.: The 6-2, 220-pounder should be the heart of the defense and is coming off a season in which he had 83 tackles, more than 20 for a loss, and seven sacks.
OL James Reynolds, Sr.: The only returning starter on the offensive line will be the glue as Browning and Co. looking for the right pieces.
WR/DB Nick Valdes, Jr.: Valdes is the team’s top returning receiver (212 yards, 23.5 yards a catch) and had a very good offseason. He has great hands and Browning will try to get him the ball more.
DT Dylan Franklin, Sr.: A starter on the offensive line last year, Franklin is being moved to shore up a defensive line that lost every returning player and will start at nose tackle.
QB Dayton Feidan, Sr.: The 6-1, 170-pounder threw 46 passes in six games last year, so he’s not completely green as he takes over the starting reins. A dual threat, Feidan also ran the ball 36 times last year, tied for third on the team despite missing the last four games after tearing his ACL.
FB/LB Logan Wolfe, Sr.: The fullback last year (181 yards), Wolfe will start at outside linebacker this season as well.
OL Logan Berryman, Jr.: The 6-2, 290-pound guard started a few games last year, and his development will be key to how quickly the offensive line comes along. Browning said he is very good and has been playing well this fall.
WR/DB Mosi Davis, Sr.: Davis is one of the team’s best athletes who spent time on varsity last season; he only played eight games, mostly on defense. With the team’s top two receivers graduated, he’ll have a bigger role in 2014.
WR/DB Naejaun Jackson, Sr.: He played in all 11 games last year and caught eight passes, but will be a bigger help this fall one both sides of the ball.
“The expectations are still high. We’re certainly not lowering them; if anything they are higher now. It’s just a matter of getting some of these puzzle pieces put in the correct places. We don’t anticipate a big dropoff.” — Browning