Fall football practices for Tampa Bay football teams officially kicked off this week. We're rolling out daily district previews for all 78 varsity teams in the area. Today we look at an all-Pinellas County district.
Clearwater Central Catholic dominated this district last season, outscoring opponents 175-40 and going on to play in the Class 3A state final. There are plenty of reasons to believe the Marauders can do that again this season. Most of the offense is back, and it's not like the other district teams have vastly improved. St. Petersburg Catholic, second place in 2013, has been gutted by transfers. Calvary Christian and Admiral Farragut appear to be better, but do they have the firepower to hang with CCC? And Shorecrest dropped out of the district, opting to play an independent schedule.
Last season, Clearwater Central Catholic went undefeated in 3A-5 thanks to an offense that scored at least 35 points in each of its four district games. The Marauders offense could be even more potent with nine starters returning. The biggest holes CCC has are on defense, where it lost eight starters, including the entire front seven. That could make the games closer, but CCC should be favored in each one.
Next in line
This is the second year for Admiral Farragut coach Ryan Hearn, and he has more players — and stability — this season. Quarterback Dalton Collins could be right there with Jeff Smith at CCC, and he has some weapons to use. The question might be on defense. The Blue Jackets gave up 29 points per game in 2013.
Calvary Christian has never made the playoffs. The Warriors (5-5 in 2013) should continue to make strides and contend for the postseason, especially with the additions of quarterback Jack Sheehan and running back Stephon Williams, both transfers from St. Petersburg Catholic. The biggest area Calvary needs to improve is on defense, where it gave up 35 points or more in three of its four district games last season.
0 Players who transferred to Clearwater Central Catholic this offseason
3 Seniors on SPC's roster
7 Starters who transferred out of St. Petersburg Catholic
14 Freshman players for SPC
15 Seniors on Calvary Christian's roster
Players to watch
OL Billy Atterbury, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic: The three-star recruit is a mauler in the run game and agile enough to protect fleet-footed quarterback Jeff Smith in passing situations. More important, he is the leader on a veteran line that should be one of the team's strengths.
WR/DB Jestin Green, Sr., Admiral Farragut: Already signed with Florida International, Green is a speedy slot receiver and solid defensive back. Look for him to be on the end of several Collins passes. "Last year we had about two or three receivers," Green said. "This year we've got eight or nine. It's going to make things easier to spread the ball around. I'm very excited about what we can do."
QB Jordan Leston, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic: All that's known about the left-handed Leston is that he is powerfully built (6 feet 2, 205), and can run and throw (think mini-Tim Tebow). He hasn't had a chance to start until this season and looked impressive in the spring.
TE/DE Wesley Vollmer, Sr., Calvary Christian: At 6-4, 215, Vollmer provides more than just size up front. He led the team in receiving yards (395) and was tied for first with three touchdown grabs. On defense, Vollmer will add depth to a unit full of veterans. His 52 total tackles last season were third most on the team.
Mark your calendar
Clearwater Central Catholic at Admiral Farragut, Oct. 24: This is the district finale for both teams and could decide the champion and runnerup. The Marauders, with lots of weapons on offense, are favored to repeat. The Blue Jackets, based on the potential of their young talent, could pose the biggest threat. Last year, CCC won in a blowout, 44-3. The key will be how much AFA's defense has improved. The Blue Jackets allowed 334 yards rushing in last year's rout.
Returning district leaders
Rushing yards: Admiral Farragut's Dalton Collins, 660
Rushing TDs: Collins, 10
Passing yards: Clearwater Central Catholic's Jeff Smith, 1,366
Passing TDs: Smith, 7
Receiving yards: CCC's CJ Cotman, 464
Receiving TDs: CCC's John Brunner, 4
Tackles: CCC's Demetri Royer, 72
Sacks: CCC's Brandon Junk, 5
Interceptions: CCC's Demetri Royer, 5
Predicted order of finish
From an anonymous coach in the district
1. Clearwater Central Catholic
2. Admiral Farragut
3. Calvary Christian
4. St. Petersburg Catholic
"We don't have that big senior class, but we do have a lot of young players who are excited to play. They're all going to get their chance to show what they can do." — St. Petersburg Catholic coach Dave Cleppe
More football online
Want to know more about these teams? Catch up on previous installments? We've got individual previews chock full of players to watch, schedules and more. Check out tampabay.com/hometeam.
Staff writer Jacob Lynn contributed to this report.
HomeTeam 2014 football Class 3A, District 5