Thursday, June 21, 2018

Land O'Lakes: 2014 football preview

Land O'Lakes

Coach: Brian Wachtel (fourth season, 12-18)

Last season: 8-2

Class/district: 6A-6

Colors: Blue and gold

Stadium: John Benedetto Stadium, 20325 Gator Lane, Land O'Lakes

Playoff history: 1978, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010

Last appearance: Lost 54-19 to Jefferson.

Season schedule

Aug. 29 at River Ridge, 7:30

Sept. 5 vs. Anclote, 7:30

Sept. 12 at Ridgewood, 7:30

Sept. 19 vs. Mitchell, 7:30

Sept. 26 vs. Gulf, 7:30

Oct. 10 at Hudson, 7:30

Oct. 17 vs. Sunlake, 7:30

Oct. 24 at Fivay, 7:30

Oct. 31 at Springstead, 7:30

Nov. 7 vs. Lecanto High, 7:30

Mark your calendar

Sunlake at Land O'Lakes, Oct. 17: Last year, Land O'Lakes lost the only two games it could not afford to lose, to district leaders Sunlake and Springstead. Despite going 8-2, the Gators were home for the playoffs, and to ensure that doesn't happen again the Gators will have to at least split those games this year. They host the Seahawks first in what should be one of Pasco County's most intense and raucous affairs this season.

Huddle highlights

No. 1 Pensyl: The 6-foot-7, 220-pound lefty is coming off a breakout season (2,345 yards, 22 touchdowns) and has bulked up in the offseason. His ability to thrive in the Gators' new offense last year has raised expectations for this fall. Pensyl threw for more than 200 yards seven times, but more importantly only threw three interceptions in 292 attempts. Now that he's gotten his college choice (Oregon State) out of the way, he can focus on rewriting the school record book.

Passing the Rock: The Gators were one of the few teams around last year that passed for twice as many yards as they rushed for. The rushing attack netted only 1,065 yards on 4 yards a carry. The ground game, with the return of leading rusher Larenz Scroggins (588 yards), has to be better, especially in big games. In those critical losses to Sunlake and Springstead, running backs managed 15 yards on 21 carries.

Simple: Coach Brian Wachtel doesn't have any magical changes in store for the upcoming season. He says for the Gators to succeed and get to the playoffs, it's really quite simple: be disciplined and be consistent. "Those two things sum it up," he said.

Experience: The Gators' offensive attack was prolific last season, and eight starters return on that side of the ball. The offensive line returns Jordan Ferrante (6-1, 220), Josh Gaulden (6-2, 285) and Nick Bartel (6-0, 270), and others like Kendall Graff and Brennan Bauer got some playing time last year. With a year of playing in the Gators' uptempo offense, Wachtel says the group should be more comfortable this season.

Swimming upstream: The departure of guys like Shaheed Salmon and Colin Irwin (233 combined tackles, almost 40 for losses) and Deointe Strozier (five interceptions) leaves the Gators having to retool the defensive side of the ball. Salmon also had 8.5 sacks and three interceptions, so his shoes may be the biggest to fill and Wachtel has turned that task over to linebacker Tommy Farmer. Wachtel said players like Connor Heaney, Darryus Lowe, Anthony Hendrix and Austin McGuire will shore up a defense that gave up 16.3 points a game last fall.

Known quantities

QB James Pensyl, Sr.: Bigger and better, look for another banner season from the quarterback, especially if he picks up where he left off. In his final three games last season, Pensyl's average line was 17-for-29 for 276 yards and three touchdowns.

ATH Ethan Weilant, Sr.: Weilant can do it all, but he'll do it mostly at wide receiver, where last year he caught 38 passes for 457 yards. He's also the backup quarterback.

RB Larenz Scroggins, Sr.: The Gators' leading rusher with 588 yards will be counted on to keep defenses honest against the spread attack.

DB Anthony Hendrix, Sr.: Count Wachtel as a fan: "He's a baller, man," the coach said. "He's just a very, very smart football player, plays with a passion and brings it every single play."

OL Jordan Ferrante, Sr.: A first-team All-Sunshine Athletic Conference choice last season, Wachtel says he is a technician on the offensive line.


WR Kamal Wells, Sr.: After a hot start last season (13 catches, 53 yards a game the first four weeks), Wells cooled off (51 total yards the rest of the way). If he returns to his early-season production, it should help ease the loss of leading receiver Liam Heaney.

OL Brennan Bauer, Jr.: Bauer will step in and start at guard, and Wachtel says he has made great strides and shown up bigger and stronger than he was last year.

ATH Ben Moultrie, Sr.: A baseball player, Moultrie returns after a year away and strengthens the Gators. He loves to hit and can run, giving Wachtel some options.

LB Tommy Farmer, Jr.: Farmer moves up to varsity, and with his speed and willingness to hit, will be called on to be disruptive on defense and fill the role of pass rusher/backfield bouncer.

Coach's corner

"I think the kids understand it (not losing the two big games again). It's like being in the last 20 meters of a race and not being able to kick it into high gear to get across the line. They're working hard at getting to the playoffs." — Wachtel

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox poised to become Tampa Bay’s highest NBA draft pick

Kevin Knox Sr. was watching the NFL draft 24 years ago when the phone rang. Buffalo coach Marv Levy was on the other line."Marv said they were taking me," said Knox Sr., a standout receiver at FSU.Soon after, Knox Sr. saw his name scroll across ESPN'...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Lightning’s Victor Hedman wins NHL’s Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman, a relentless part of the Lightning's push to the Eastern Conference final last season, was honored Wednesday night with the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's top defenseman."To the Lightning organization, Mr. Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Sports on TV/radio for Thursday, June 21

TODAYBaseballRed Sox at Twins1 p.m.MLBMets at Rockies (in progress)4 p.m.MLBCubs at Reds7 p.m.MLBBlue Jays at Angels10 p.m.MLBCollege baseball, World SeriesFlorida vs. Texas Tech8 p.m.ESPNUGolfPGA: Traveler’s Championship3:30 p.m.GolfHorsesRoyal Asco...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Report: Bucs QB Jameis Winston bracing for suspension from NFL

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston could be suspended for up to three games  next season following the league's investigation into allegations he groped a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016, a Tallahassee radio station reported.Jeff Cameron, a&#...
Updated: 2 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

Phil Mickelson apologizes four days after hitting moving ball at U.S. Open

NEW YORK — Phil Mickelson has apologized four days after intentionally violating golf rules by hitting a moving ball on the green at the U.S. Open, saying his frustration got the best of him. The apology came Wednesday in a statement released by his ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Tough questions are mere child’s play for Kevin Knox

Growing up, Kevin Knox II watched videos or listened to motivational tapes during car rides to and from school so he could learn how to expand upon answers in interviews.That was all by design.His father, Kevin Knox Sr., knew about the spotlight as a...
Updated: 11 hours ago