Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Football: Land O'Lakes returns tall QB but little else


There won't be many quarterbacks taller than Land O'Lakes' James Pensyl this fall. But his 6-foot-7 frame isn't what excites coach Brian Wachtel most.

"He's finally filled out," Wachtel said. "There's no more room for him to grow up, up and up. He's put on some muscle."

Last season for the 8-2 Gators, Pensyl threw for 234 yards per game with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. Problem was, the losses came to district foes Springstead and Sunlake, preventing a playoff trip.

Plenty of key parts graduated, including: leading receiver Liam Heaney (48 catches, 690 yards, six touchdowns), top deep threat Javin Tandy (32 yards per catch), linebacker Shaheed Salmon (117 tackles, 81/2 sacks) linebacker Colin Irwin (116 tackles, 17 for loss) and lineman Darius Wells (20 tackles-for-loss).

Their absence has been felt this spring.

"We need someone to step up," Pensyl said. "We've had some good days, but we've had some bad days. And those are mostly due to mental errors."

One result has been pointed (and lengthy) post-practice speeches by Wachtel. Monday's was near 15 minutes and while not quite Lombardi-esque was pretty motivational.

"Just going over some of the finer points of football," he said.

A big reason for the upped focus? The spring game is tonight. The Gators play at Pasco a week before most games because the Pirates' field needs to be prepared for graduation ceremonies.

Ben Moultrie won't need any special pumping up for the contest. He started on the Gators' baseball team, which won its district tournament but lost to Pasco in the playoff opener.

"We had guys do well in track and baseball, so they were late getting to us because of the early start," Wachtel said. "But the big plus is we'll be able to get into the weight room a week earlier."

Jesuit appears strong up front

All are tight-lipped on details, but expect some offensive wrinkles at Jesuit under new coordinator Joe Gerena, a former Army quarterback who was an assistant at Armwood last fall.

Regardless of the system they show in Monday's game at Dixie Hollins, the Tigers' strength figures to be up front. They return the entire offensive line: Clark Bulleit, Jackson Dennis, Nick Cox, Mike Bell and Guy Revelle. They will block for Kevin Newman, a senior-to-be who has bulked up to 195 pounds and recently landed an offer from Ball State.

The key will be the development of quarterback Trent Wessel. The 6-foot-2 captain appeared at the end of last season when Vincent Testaverde became ill and, with little time to prepare, led Jesuit to a 13-9 win over archrival Tampa Catholic.

"He's a gamer," second-year Jesuit coach Matt Thompson said. "You just throw him in there."

Rebels prep for Monday

Dixie Hollins had a dress rehearsal for the Jesuit game with a scrimmage Thursday, its last full practice beforehand. Coach Shannon Brooks said he wanted to get everyone playing time, keep everyone healthy and get the new players working with the starters.

"I think we accomplished that," Brooks said. "Everyone got to play, and we got them on tape. The only injuries may have been some bruised egos. And the players we expected to do well did do well."

That includes quarterback Tyrie Adams, whom Brooks said looked "silly good." One giant hole to fill is receiver Jacquez Hill. He had 882 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

Terriers QB opts for Miami for now

Hillsborough quarterback Dwayne Lawson orally committed to Miami, Terriers offensive coordinator Max Warner said Thursday. But Lawson, who will be a senior in the fall, told, a Miami-centered website owned by Yahoo, he should be considered a "soft" oral commitment and plans to visit Ohio State, Mississippi and Tennessee before making a final decision in October. reported he also considered, among other schools, Florida and UCF. "I just think Miami is the place for me to be,'' Lawson told Canesport. "(It's) a perfect situation." The 6-foot-5, 212-pounder Lawson was an all-county pick last season. He threw for 2,120 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for 1,068 yards and nine touchdowns.

Tonight's games

All at 7

• Land O'Lakes at Pasco

• Crystal River at Hernando

• Tavares at Central

• Countryside at Citrus

• Admiral Farragut at Hawthorne

• Northside Christian at Sarasota Out-of-Door

Times staff writers Matt Baker, Rodney Page and John C. Cotey contributed to this report.

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