When Tampa Catholic's 2010 season was quickly heading south after an 0-4 start, coach Bob Henriquez turned to a freshman. He put his offense in the hands of lean 6-foot-3, 170-pound ninth-grade quarterback Chivarsky Corbett. Surrounded by a wealth of young talent, TC overcame a winless September to reach the Class 2B region semifinal. Last year's team might have been as green as the Crusaders' helmets - with a half-dozen freshmen starting - but this year's team is rich with promise, headlined by Corbett, who took some time out before practice answer some questions for the huddle.
What was the biggest lesson you learned from getting thrown into the fire as a freshman last season?
I think it was a good chance for me to play even better this year. I was able to get comfortable with the offense, working with the older people. Being a sophomore, I think I can be a leader this year. I think it will give me the opportunity to get better.
You have a young team coming back. Name one player people don't know about now who you think will have a breakout spring or fall.
I think our wide receiver Mike Clark. People have talked about him, but not as much as they should be. I think in the spring he's going to do awesome. He's 6-5. He gives us a great advantage at wide receiver. We have another receiver who is 6-4, Zach Benjamin. He's a sophomore. He's someone to talk about, too.
What have you learned from former TC standout QB Kenny Kelly, who is back coaching quarterbacks? He's the best quarterback to come out of here.
A lot. Some of the stuff we're doing this year I didn't even know about last year. ... He's trying to get me as good as him, or even better. We've worked on our drops because we're taking more drops now than last year, and handoffs, too, to stop the fumbles.
You also played basketball on TC's state semifinalist basketball team. What's your first love - hoops or football?
I always considered myself a basketball player first, then football. But I think I'm good at both. I think last year, as the football season went along, it started getting fun. That's when it started hitting me that I could have some fun out here.
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Four random observations from our swing through area football practices:
1. MLB Isaac Tanner may be the heart and soul of Freedom's defense, but on the day we observed the Patriots, lanky OLB Brody Flanagin was flying all over the place. Flanagin highlighted a Tuesday scrimmage with a pick-six against a scout-team quarterback.
2. The "thunder" and "lightning" in Jesuit's backfield this year very well could be rising seniors Matt Garcia and Rico Gonzalez, respectively.
3. Depth will be TC's biggest obstacle. Numbers are down at spring practice, with 43 players reporting this spring (compared with about 80 two years ago). The good news for the Crusaders is that the majority will have varsity experience. In short, last year's growing pains will pay dividends.
4. Plant rising senior WR/DB Antonio Crawford, who led the Panthers with 47 receptions last season and just received his first offer from I-AA Youngstown State, will pick up more by the end of spring.
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'No way' number of the day
6-3, 300 pounds The physical vitals on Tampa Catholic rising sophomore LT Cory Martinez, who finished his freshman season by receiving a spot on the MaxPreps/U.S. Air Force national freshman all-American team. Henriquez said he believes Martinez will have his pick of colleges by the time his recruiting heats up. Miami OL coach Art Kehoe, who stopped by Crusaders practice this month, told Henriquez that Martinez already looks better than most of the rising seniors the 'Canes are recruiting.
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What they're saying
Every day, we pose a question to our readers on our Facebook page. They're keen to offer their two cents ... and we're printing the best response.
Tuesday's question: Which football team that was down on its luck in 2010 will bounce back with a winning record this season? Extra points if you tell us how.
- Boca Ciega Pirates. With the addition of a kicker we could have easily been 7-3 or 8-2 (in 2010) with those extra points. The new coaching staff is amazing, plus an addition of a talented defense with two-star safety Denzel Conyers ... and Elijah McClendon. So, I say, you look out. The Pirates are on their way up. - Elijah "Fearless" McClendon
Next up: Hillsborough's spring games/jamborees are May 20, while the North Suncoast and Pinellas play most of their games the following week. Which game are you most looking forward to?
What's your call? Go to facebook.com/pages/HomeTeam-by-tampabaycom/145729801992, become a fan and give us your thoughts.