Tampa Bay Tech
Coach: Jayson Roberts (fourth season, 22-11)
Last season: 6-4
Colors: Navy, red and white
Stadium: Titan Stadium, 66410 Orient Road, Tampa
Playoff history: 2000, 2001, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Last appearance: Lost 34-7 to Durant.
Aug. 29 at Newsome, 7:30
Sept. 12 vs. Durant, 7:30
Sept. 19 at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30
Sept. 26 at Plant, 7:30
Oct. 2 vs. Steinbrenner, 7
Oct. 10 vs. Plant City, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Freedom, 7:30
Oct. 24 vs. Gaither, 7:30
Oct. 31 vs. Sickles, 7:30
Nov. 7 at Hillsborough, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Sickles at Tampa Bay Tech, Oct. 31: Both teams will have a whole season to get ready for the game that should decide the Class 7A-7 playoff spot. The Titans play Gaither the week before, and will have to make sure that result doesn’t have the same effect on them that last year’s did, when the Titans fell 35-8 to Sickles after losing to the Cowboys.
Starting over: After making the playoffs five straight seasons and winning four playoff games — the first four in school history — TBT was knocked out of playoff contention last season after consecutive losses to Sickles and Gaither. It was a bit of a shocker, as the Titans appeared loaded to make a run but fell apart on the way to a 6-4 record. The expectations weren’t as high in the spring, but the arrival of some transfers and freshmen over the summer has raised them. “The biggest, the hardest pill to swallow was not making the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. It was definitely a rallying point this offseason,” said coach Jayson Roberts.
Middle Titans? Middleton and Tech always seem to share players from year to year, and 2014 won’t be any different. Tech picked up three key players from Middleton via transfer that will all contribute. Jaquan Brown, who was second on the Tigers with 228 yards, has emerged as the primary ball carrier, and sophomore Jarrett Dickens (6-3, 275) will help shore up an offensive line returning just one starter. But the star of the group could be defensive back Marchalo Judge. Not only did he have passing, rushing and receiving yards at Middleton last year, he led the team with 88 tackles and added three interceptions.
Youth will be served: At this time last year, Roberts was raving about the potential of his freshman class, calling it the school’s best ever. This year? The freshmen are even better. Now, the Titans have the best set of sophomores and freshmen in school history, pointing to a very bright future. Some of the newbies are already the size of grown men, like defensive end Jonathan King (6-2, 220), wide receiver Levi Jackson (6-1, 180) and two other offensive linemen that Roberts says run 6-2, 250. Last year, TBT had eight freshmen on the roster; expect about the same this year.
Cain is able: Quarterback Deon Cain is out to prove he is more than just a nationally-ranked wide receiver recruit headed to Clemson. “He wants to show everyone he could have been a college quarterback, too, if he wanted,’’ Roberts said. Cain threw for 1,945 yards and 13 touchdowns last year, but expects bigger things this fall. That won’t stop TBT from trying to get him some action at wide receiver. Roberts said he’ll play 90 percent of the snaps under center, but the development of backup Trent Wyatt gives the coach some flexibility to mix things up.
Running men: Roberts is taking over the offense, and he expects to focus more on the run this season. Last year’s offensive coordinator, Anthony Palmer, is now coaching the running backs so the transition should be seamless. However, Manzy Velasquez (6-2, 250) is the only 2013 starter that returns on the offensive line.
QB Deon Cain, Sr.: Cain already holds school records for career passing yards (3,590) and touchdowns (23), according to Roberts. The leader of the team, how Cain plays and reacts to the tough times will determine how far Tech advances this season.
WR Daquon Green, So.: A terrific young talent, Green led the Titans with more than 20 yards a catch last season, and could double his production of 332 yards and three touchdowns.
CB Marchalo Judge, So.: He did a little bit of everything for Middleton last year, but he’ll be counted on to make plays for the Titans as one of the safeties.
LB Bruno Jean, Sr.: Jean developed into a starter last season, helped by a 15-tackle outing against Plant, and he’ll be the glue on a linebacking corps that will also start two sophomores.
WR Levi Jackson, Fr.: The brother of former Jesuit star and current USF Bull Vincent Jackson is a “manchild,” according to Roberts, and is destined to become a big-time recruit for the Titans.
OL Qu’Juan Spradley, So.: He was brought along slowly last year, but was groomed to take over the left tackle spot this season. At 6-2, 280 pounds, he is built for the challenge.
DL Deondre Jones, So.: He’s part of a defensive line that Roberts says is “scary good”. At 6-3, 328 pounds, Jones will start at nose tackle.
DE Jonathan King, Fr.: When Roberts saw King on the first day of workouts, he asked him where he transferred in from and King replied, “Stewart (Middle).” At 6-2, 220 pounds, he will be starting sooner rather than later at TBT.
DE Anthony Davis, Jr: He had a breakout game in the spring with two sacks and four tackles for a loss.
“There has not been a whole lot of talk about us and I like that. I think we’re going to be one of those surprise teams this year.” — Roberts