TAMPA — Carrollwood Day knew it'd have a rough journey back to the playoffs after graduating Hillsborough County's all-time leading rusher (Robert Davis) and starting the season 0-2.
The Patriots couldn't have predicted their path would take so many detours just to get to practice.
With the soccer season underway, CDS' football team lost its field Tuesday. Then when the Patriots started the trip to Skyway Park to use turf field in preparation for Friday's Class 2A playoff opener at Naples First Baptist Academy, their bus broke down.
Eventually they showed up by the carload, ready to overcome just another obstacle in the team's quick rise.
"Basically we're building a program," coach Lane McLaughlin said. "We're just trying to not rebuild, to just reload."
His Patriots have spent the entire season doing just that.
With Davis at Memphis and some key seniors graduated from last year's 10-2 program, CDS (7-3) took its lumps early. Freedom transfer Taylor King struggled initially, passing for only 245 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the first two games. The Patriots were outscored 62-6 by Jacksonville University Christian and Indian Rocks Christian.
But King and his offense recovered and have put up at least 28 points in every game since then. Former Zephyrhills quarterback Mike Smith has starred in his new role at receiver, racking up 1,000 yards. The 6-foot-4 King has 18 touchdowns and almost 2,000 passing yards to add a new dynamic to CDS' offense.
"Once he got comfortable with this, he really put up some numbers," McLaughlin said.
That allowed his rushing game to take off, too, especially behind linemen Corey Shamley and Shilpen Patel.
Davis' responsibilities have fallen to Elias Earley and Sickles transfer Willie Parker, who have rushed for 10 scores each. The speedy Earley (745 yards) can slide all over the field, while Parker (952 yards) shows his versatility with his running style.
"Willie can do it all, man," King said. "He's fast. He can juke. He can run over someone."
Although many of the Patriots' top players weren't around for last year's 56-28 loss to First Baptist in the second round, they know feelings remain sore in the locker room.
"They don't like to really talk about that game too much," King said.
But CDS' bumpy road will bring the Patriots back to Naples this week for a shot at redemption.