Coach: Darryl Gordon (third season, 5-15)
Last season: 2-8
Colors: Black and gold
Stadium: James “Big Jim” Williams Stadium, 1701 N. Blvd., Tampa
Playoff history: 1969, 2000
Last appearance: Lost 31-0 to Crystal River
State titles: 1969
Aug. 29 at Brandon, 7:30
Sept. 5 vs. Armwood, 7:30
Sept. 12 at Leto, 7;30
Sept. 19 vs. Lennard, 7:30
Sept. 26 at King, 7:30
Oct. 2 vs. Chamberlain, 7
Oct. 10 vs. Middleton, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Hillsborough, 7:30
Oct. 24 vs. Robinson, 7:30
Oct. 31 at Jefferson, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Armwood at Blake, Sept. 5: The Hawks will be heavily favored to win, but how Blake plays in this game will tell us right away if the offseason enthusiasm around this team is legit. We think it is. The Yellow Jackets played Armwood tougher than anyone but Jefferson in the regular season last year, trailing only 16-6 at halftime and getting seven combined sacks from 2014 returners Shavar Manuel and Julian Jackson. Is it unrealistic to predict postseason for Blake? Probably. But it’s not unrealistic to suggest a good showing here, win or lose, becomes a precursor to a breakout season.
The Manuel effect: Junior defensive lineman Shavar Manuel is one of the most hotly recruited players to come out of Blake High. “(Manuel’s) brought attention not just to the team but to the school,” coach Darryl Gordon said. “As far as football goes, it’s all the other players’ opportunity to show what they can do.”
New signal caller: Junior Sam Oxendine takes over at quarterback, and the team’s success rides heavily on how well he is able guide the offense. Gordon was happy with what he saw from Oxendine in the spring jamboree and in 7-on-7 action at Skyway Park. Blake placed fourth at the Disney Classic 7-on-7 tournament and were runners-up in a tournament at Ocala.
Depending on the D: The Yellow Jackets have typically been able to hang their hat on their defense and will likely need to lean on that unit again this season. The group is coming together with veteran leadership and Gordon calls it the backbone of the team.
DE Shavar Manuel, Jr.: Manuel, who had 19 sacks in 2013, is the fulcrum of the defensive line. He will flip around and put in minutes on the offensive line, too. Gordon likes to move him around and says “(Manuel) will really work at what you’re trying to teach him.”
LB Julian Jackson, Sr.: Jackson led the team in tackles (47) last season and amassed 12 sacks. He will be Blake’s mic linebacker, and Gordon is getting to where he trusts him to make reads and says he’s consistent at making the play.
CB Donte’ Glover, Jr.: Gordon says Glover is one of those players who always wants to know what to do to improve his game. Gordon also thinks he could develop into a lockdown corner. Glover’s three picks and 10 defended passes from last season might be indicators.
RB Corey Bennett, Sr.: Bennett was the everything guy last season, compiling 1,113 total yards while leading the team in rushing. It’s his third year on the team and according to Gordon, he’s able to hit the holes well and should make some noise.
OL/DL Jamel Bememon, Sr.: Bememon goes 6-3, 260 and is the next best force in the trenches behind Manuel. Gordon fashions Bememon as someone who likes being told what he’s doing wrong and is able to teach him some of the finer details of the game
WR/FS Juwan Burgess, So.: Burgess had a phenomenal freshman year, compiling 712 all-purpose yards, notching 40 tackles and leading the team — and district — with five interceptions.
OL/DL Marvens Mellons, Jr.: One of the strongest players on the team, Mellons is a workaholic both in the weight room and on the field. Gordon says he’s willing to put the time in to do what he needs to do. “The offensive and defensive line coaches just love him,” he said.
WR Isaiah Rodgers, Jr.: Rodgers caught 11 balls as a sophomore and should step into a much larger role this season. Gordon says he’s got hands, speed and can read defenses. Rogers scored on a long touchdown reception against Middleton in the spring.
“Blake has been a doormat for a long time; this year is our chance to be really good if we can get it together.” — Defensive coordinator Anthony Davis