Tampa Catholic: 2014 football preview

Published Aug. 8, 2014

Tampa Catholic

Coach: Mike Gregory (second season, 10-3)

Last season: 10-3

Class: 3A-4

Colors: Green and white

Stadium: Unnamed, 4630 N. Rome Ave., Tampa

Playoff appearances: 1971, 1976, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013

Last appearance: Beat Melbourne Holy Trinity 52-14; beat Melbourne Central Catholic 45-10; lost 20-11 to Jacksonville Trinity Christian.

Season schedule

Aug. 29 at Madison County, 7:30

Sept. 5 at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7:30

Sept. 12 vs. Tarpon Springs, 7

Sept. 19 at Fort Meade, 7:30

Sept. 26 vs. Cardinal Mooney, 7

Oct. 3 vs. Frostproof, 7

Oct. 17 vs. Berkeley Prep, 7

Oct. 24 at Lakeland Christian, 7:30

Oct. 31 at Indian Rocks Christian, 7:30

Nov. 7 vs. Jesuit, 7

Mark your calendar

Tampa Catholic vs. Jesuit, Nov. 7: The Tigers have won the last 14 matchups — including last year's 13-9 defensive standoff — but it's still arguably the best rivalry in town. Jesuit and Tampa Catholic have the ingredients for successful seasons, but one of these teams will finish its campaign with a loss. The Crusaders are hoping that, for the first time in more than a decade, it won't be them.

Huddle highlights

Quarterback battle: When coach Mike Gregory searched for a replacement for last year's quarterback, Kyle Ploucher, he came up with not one contender, but two. The second-year coach said he's not yet sure who will be the main starter — Kevin Knox is a pocket passer, he says, while Tyler Sims is more of a mobile, dual-threat guy — but he is certain of the fact that the Crusaders will take advantage of both guys' talents.

Close, but not close enough: Last year Tampa Catholic's season ended with a tearful huddle on its home field after a state semifinal loss to eventual champion Jacksonville Trinity Christian. Will the Crusaders use that playoff experience to make another state title run?

A new weapon: In possibly the biggest offseason transfer in the Tampa Bay area, Nate Craig, an Auburn commit and one of the nation's top 2016 recruits, took his talents from Pasco High to Tampa Catholic. With that kind of help on the offensive side of the ball, the Crusaders should be in good shape.

Replacing talent: Craig's transfer certainly helped replenish a Crusader team that graduated lots of Division I talent. Justin Motlow and Corey Martinez (both at Florida State), Tre Watson (Illinois) and T.J. Harrell (Michigan State) are all gone, but Gregory said he's confident in the ability of their replacements.

Receivers galore: The Crusaders may have two passers, but they've got even more weapons with whom they can connect. In addition to Craig, Gregory expects many other receivers — Jake Romp, Darius Corbett, Jalen Dickenson, just to name a few — to make a big impact.

Known quantities

WR Nate Craig, Jr.: At No. 6 in ESPN's 2016 top 300, Craig might be new to the Crusaders, but he'll likely be the focus of every opponent's attention. Craig recorded 481 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns for Pasco last year, and Gregory expects him to be a big force for his new team.

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DL Malik Barrow, Jr.: Gregory says he feels good about his defensive line, and Barrow is a big reason why. Barrow, No. 25 in our HomeTeam 100 and owner of more than a dozen college offers, racked up 52 tackles last season, nine for loss.

LB Cody Endris, Sr.: A three-year starter for the Crusaders, Endris "makes the defense go," Gregory says. This go-around he'll have even more on his plate, having to take the place of Watson as the leader of the linebacker corp.

RB Ben Reed, Sr.: The Crusaders graduated their two leading rushers from last season, but Reed, who recorded 358 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, could do a lot more now that he won't be sharing the carries as much.


DB/WR Bentlee Sanders, So.: Sanders was a starter at defensive back last season as a freshman, also helping out on kick and punt returns. Gregory expects his role to be greatly expanded this season, making big plays on the offensive side of the ball.

QB Kevin Knox, So.: One of two guys competing for the starting job, Knox is great in the pocket, Gregory said, and has an outstanding arm. With a slew of wide receivers with which to work, Knox will be given ample opportunity to show off that skill.

QB Tyler Sims, Jr.: Sims also has a chance to be the starting quarterback and is an athletic kid Gregory says sees the field extremely well. Unlike Knox, Sims will likely make his mark with his feet rather than his arm.

OL Calvin Wolfe, So.: At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Wolfe could have a breakout year, Gregory said. He'll help anchor an offensive line that will try to replace the hole left by FSU signee Corey Martinez.

WR/DB Jalen Dickenson, Jr.: Used mostly as a role player last year, Dickenson — who recorded more than 100 rushing yards — could be one of Knox or Sims' main targets while helping share the load in the run game.

Coach's corner

"Having a guy like Justin Motlow, who was very productive for us for two and a half years, losing him, and Nate kind of fills that void. Nate fills voids in other ways, too. He's just a kid you've got to find a way to get the ball in his hands. He can be a game changer." — Gregory