Don Mesick is known for having high-scoring offenses. Since taking over as Clearwater High football coach in 2015, Mesick's teams have averaged at least 28 points per game.
The Tornadoes have had all kinds of top-tier talent in that span. Jacquez Jones, an electrifying receiver who was Tampa Bay Times' Pinellas County offensive player of the year in 2016, is currently playing at Tennessee. Adarius Lemons, a 1,000-yard rusher in 2015, played at Florida before deciding to transfer last month.
So it was quite a statement when Mesick said this year's offense is the best he's ever had.
The proof is in the numbers.
Clearwater has scored 244 points in six games, a whopping average of 40.6 per game. The numbers are not just coming in lopsided scores against overmatched opponents. The Tornadoes scored 35 points in a loss to Braden River, which has made the playoffs the past four seasons. And Clearwater put up 34 against Cocoa in the preseason.
"The thing that's really set this offense apart is the balance," Mesick said. "We can run, and we can throw with equal success."
The strength of the offense starts up front. The Tornadoes have a veteran — and beefy — offensive line. Nearly everyone has played together for at least two years and the unit averages about 280 pounds per starter. The top returner is Terrance Shaw, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound senior who was voted a captain. He already has offers from Eastern Kentucky and Southern Mississippi among others.
The line got an even bigger boost with the addition of Ethan White, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound senior who transferred from Superior Collegiate in August.
"We already had a good offensive line before Ethan got here," Mesick said. "It's one of the best in the area."
White, who has already committed to Florida, added experience.
"The linemen have all worked together for a few years, but everything was able to blend together when Ethan got here," Mesick said. "They've all been able to learn from each other."
The skill positions have always been stocked with talent. The difference is the amount of depth Clearwater has at running back and receiver.
"We have someone solid at every single position on offense," Mesick said.
Qwa'shaun Perry, a converted defensive back, is the team's leading rusher with 507 yards. Mesick said the staff decided to turn Perry into a running back in part to help the senior get noticed more by colleges.
"We worked real hard with Perry over the summer to learn the position," Mesick said. "He's really developed into a solid back. It's something we probably should have done sooner."
There are other reliable backs, too, such as Latrez Bradley and Marquvion Jeter.
The top receiver is Keedrik Murray, who already has an offer from USF. The junior has a team-leading 465 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Jeter is not too far behind with 244 yards.
To make it all work, the Tornadoes needed a signal caller to direct all this talent. They found one in Rent Montie, a junior who is in his first full season as the starter. At 6-foot-3, Montie has the height to become a top college prospect.
He has the numbers, too.
Montie has thrown for 1,132 yards and 16 touchdowns. In a 58-40 win over Northeast last month, Montie threw for 249 yards and six scores, breaking the school for touchdown passes in a game previously set by Walter Bowlin in 1980.
"We have a great balance of speed and size on the offensive side of the ball," Montie said. "Our big offensive line has been able to dominate the trenches in both run and pass blocking. The receiving core has been electric making big plays, and our rotating cast of running backs have been really good for us this season.
"It didn't take too long for me to get comfortable in the offense, maybe a drive or two into the preseason game against Cocoa, putting up 34 points against a top-tier program."
Mesick cannot take all the credit. He said some praise should go to Ron Laessig, his offensive coordinator.
Can the Tornadoes keep putting up these kinds of numbers on the scoreboard, especially with upcoming games against Boca Ciega and Largo?
"I think there's definitely room for improvement," Mesick said. "We can keep getting better."