Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Clearwater: 2014 football preview

Clearwater

Coach: Donnie Abraham (second season)

Last season: 0-10

Class/district: 7A-9

Colors: Gray and red

Stadium: Jack White Stadium, 540 S. Hercules Ave., Clearwater

Playoff history: 1964, 1969, 1970, 1978, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004

Last appearance: Lost 39-21 to Boca Ciega

Season schedule

Aug. 29 at Tarpon Springs, 7:30

Sept. 5 vs. St. Petersburg, 7:30

Sept. 12 at Palm Harbor University, 7:30

Sept. 19 at East Lake, 7:30

Sept. 26 at Gibbs, 7:30

Oct. 2 vs. Countryside, 7

Oct. 17 at Pinellas Park, 7:30

Oct. 24 vs. Northeast, 7:30

Oct. 31 vs. Seminole, 7:30

Nov. 7 vs. Boca Ciega, 7:30

Mark your calendar

Northeast at Clearwater, Oct. 24: This was one of the few games Clearwater was competitive in last season, losing 41-34. It was the most points the Tornadoes scored all season and helped a young offense build confidence that extended through the offseason. Because the district is one of the most competitive in the area, this game might also represent the best chance Clearwater has of staying in a district game and perhaps winning one this season.

Huddle highlights

Changing the culture: When Donnie Abraham took over as coach last season, he inherited a program that had just one winning season and one playoff appearance in the past decade. The Tornadoes were also accustomed to watching their best players leave and had three transfer out in 2013, including Florida recruit Justus Reed to Clearwater Central Catholic. To get his young players in the habit of winning, Abraham purposely kept some of his younger ones on junior varsity. They thrived, helping Clearwater's JV program go 5-2. They made an immediate impact once promoted to varsity, with the Tornadoes staying competitive in two of their final three games. Just as important, Abraham said he did not have a player transfer to another school this offseason, a sign things are turning around.

Offensive potential: The bulk of the young talent is on offense with junior quarterback Garrison Bryant directing an offense that includes sophomores Tupac Blanch, Jacquez Jones and Leundray Rhodes. Clearwater scored 52 of its 101 points in the final three games last season. In the spring, the Tornadoes racked up 337 yards of offense in three quarters against Ocala West Port.

Improved defense: Clearwater took its lumps on defense last year, allowing 30 or more points in nine straight games. Abraham played most of his underclassmen on that side of the ball the second half of the season. The encouraging sign came in the season finale when the Tornadoes held Boca Ciega to 17 points, by far the lowest total of the year. In the spring, they allowed just 171 yards of offense to West Port. The one area Clearwater has to show improvement in is creating turnovers. The Tornadoes forced just two in 2013.

Known quantities

TE/LB Rasim Avmet, Sr.: The basketball standout was the team's leading receiver last year with 285 yards and caught a winning touchdown pass from Bryant in the spring.

QB Garrison Bryant, Jr.: After transferring from East Lake last season, Bryant played well for the Tornadoes down the stretch, finishing with 600 yards passing and two touchdowns.

OL Tom Hassler, Sr.: The lone returning starter on the line will be counted on to clear holes and provide protection for an improved offense.

DL Marquez Hartfield, DL: This pass rushing specialist had 42 tackles and led the team in sacks last season with six.

FB/MLB Lucas McWhorter, Sr.: The returning starter finished last season with 37 tackles and three sacks.

Up-and-comers

RB/DB Tupac Blanch, So.: After spending most of last season on junior varsity, Blanch will be one of the main running backs. In the spring, he teamed with Adarius Lemons for 154 yards on the ground.

RB/DB Jacquez Jones, So.: Abraham raves about his versatility. He'll line in various spots on offense to take advantage of his athleticism.

RB/DB Adarius Lemons, So.: This speedster is adept at turning the corner and catching passes out of the backfield. In the spring, he took a pitch and raced 95 yards for a touchdown against West Port.

WR/DB Leundray Rhodes, Sr.: He finished as the team's second-leading receiver last season with 208 yards, 106 of which came in the final four games.

Coach's corner

"The program has improved night and day from when I first started, especially with the attitude. These kids just needed direction. The biggest thing we have to do is learn how to win. We have to break that culture of losing." — Abraham

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