Friday, February 23, 2018

St. Petersburg Catholic: 2014 football preview

St. Petersburg Catholic

Coach: Dave Cleppe (first season)

2013 record: 8-4

Class/district: 3A-5

Colors: Black and gold

Stadium: Joe Paul Stadium 6333 9th Ave. N., St. Petersburg

Playoff appearances: 1977, 1991, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2013

Last appearance: Beat Cardinal Mooney 35-34; lost 49-16 to Clearwater Central Catholic.

Season schedule

Aug. 29 vs. Indian Rocks Christian, 7

Sept. 5 at Pine Ridge, 7

Sept. 12 at Melbourne Central Catholic, 7

Sept. 19 at Admiral Farragut, 7:30

Oct. 3 vs. Clearwater Central Catholic, 7

Oct. 10 at Cardinal Mooney, 7

Oct. 17 vs. Bishop Verot, 7

Oct. 24 vs. JAX Episcopal, 7

Oct. 31 vs. Calvary Christian, 7

Nov. 7 vs. Northside Christian, 7

Mark your calendar

Clearwater Central Catholic at St. Petersburg Catholic, Oct. 3: The Barons' nemesis last season was CCC. They lost both meetings, including the region final 49-16. SPC will see if it's made any progress against the defending district champs.

Huddle highlights

New regime: This is a new Barons team in many ways. Aside from coach Dave Cleppe taking over for Steve Dudley, offensive lineman Reilly Gibbons is gone to Stanford. His (not so) little brother, Dillan, transferred to Northside Christian. Running backs Tony Jones (IMG Academy), Alex Gray (Admiral Farragut) and Stephon Williams (Calvary Christian) also moved on. And running back Jacquan Fuller is now at Indian Rocks Christian. Jordan Leston takes over at quarterback for Jack Sheehan, who also transferred to Calvary Christian. Finding a running back is a top priority in the preseason.

Young squad: There are only three seniors on the SPC roster: Leston, center/defensive end Conor Hay and kicker/wide receiver/safety Garrett Vallario. Cleppe said the freshman class is biggest, with 14 players.

Leston time: Leston is a Clearwater/East Lake transfer who is just looking for some playing time. He's going to get all he wants his senior season. He will play quarterback, linebacker and punter. "It's time for me to finally get my chance and prove to everyone what I can do,'' Leston said. "I've been working out a lot during the offseason to prepare for this year. I know I'm going to be on the field a lot so I don't want to wear out.''

Remaining optimistic: Despite the transfers and graduation of some top players, Cleppe believes his team will be competitive. The Barons won their spring game 27-12 over Avon Park (although Fuller was the main back), and Cleppe said his skill players did well in summer 7-on-7 games. "We took Armwood down to the last play,'' Cleppe said. "Yes, I'm very excited about what we can do."

Known quantities

QB Jordan Leston, Sr.: All that's known about the left-handed Leston is that he is powerfully built (6-2, 205), and can run and throw (think mini-Tim Tebow). He hasn't had a chance to start until this season, but looked impressive in the spring.

C/DE Conor Hay, Sr.: Hay provides size (245 pounds) on a line without much. Hay should also give the Barons some leadership.

K/WR/S Garrett Vallario, Sr.: Vallario has been the kicker since his freshman year. Now he will catch passes and play defense in his first year with an increased role.

DL/OL Ben Pruett, Jr.: Pruett played last year on a very good offensive line. He spent the summer at college camps and came into the preseason in good shape.

DE Shea Donnelly, Jr.: Another sophomore who saw playing time last season, Donnelly could also be the backup quarterback.


WR Emmanuel Eke, Jr.: Cleppe said Eke was a standout during summer 7-on-7 games. With a shortage of offensive weapons, Eke could become a favorite target.

DB/WR Matt Castro, So.: Cleppe said Castro caught his eye during the spring and has been impressive in preseason as well.

DB Brock McSherry, So.: A new player who Cleppe said loves to play physical.

Coach's corner

"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." — Cleppe

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