LITHIA — When Newsome High’s football team walks onto the field for warmups, they don’t look particularly tough.
Or tall, or big, or strong.
“We know that,” Wolves senior tight end Kyle Sellers said. “The other teams see us and say, ‘Oh, look at them, we’re going to beat them.’ ”
And then — steadily, efficiently and smartly — Newsome runs and tackles and more often than not, beats the opposition.
This year, for instance, Newsome is 7-1 and 3-0 in Class 8A, District 8, and, if they can defeat Sarasota Riverview (5-2, 3-0) Friday night, all the Wolves have to do is top Ridge Community in their final regular-season game to seal up an undefeated district title.
“But we first have to focus on Sarasota Riverview because that’s the biggest game we’ve had since 2012 when we were in the playoffs,” Newsome coach Christian Yockey said. “This week is all about Sarasota Riverview.”
That means breaking down tons of film and finding every little nuance that Newsome could possibly exploit, a trait that Yockey appears to be exceptionally good at, which makes more sense once you learn he teaches AP calculus.
“We believe we have the smartest coach in the world,” said Sellers, who, by the way, has an almost 6.00 weighted grade-point average and takes AP calculus with Yockey. “When we walk onto the field, we always feel like we are more prepared than our opponent. It’s such a great feeling.”
That feeling has pretty much been there for years and years, first under coach Ken Hiscock before he handed over the head coaching reins to his assistant coach, Yockey, two years ago.
It was a moment Yockey, 35, had dreamed about ever since he played high school football in Ohio before earning his math degree at Ohio State. He did not play in college, but the coaching bug stayed strong in his heart.
In 2006 he moved to Hillsborough County, where he took a teaching and assistant coaching job at Lennard before moving over in 2010 to Newsome.
“I absolutely love it here,” Yockey said. “You could never ask for a better group of kids than the ones at Newsome.”
No, they may not always be the biggest or strongest, but there are few teams that play more on the same page than the Wolves, who are, despite their looks, tougher than most.
This year, the group is another exercise in spreading the workload.
Junior quarterback Nicholas Felice, for instance, hasn’t set any passing records but he has been efficient and smart while running the Wolves’ hybrid wing-T. Felice has completed 37 of 77 attempts for 618 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions.
The running backs, meantime, have been a mix of pounding toughness with sophomore Jason Albritton (124 carries, 969 yards, 10 touchdowns) and senior Landon White (66 carries, 636 yards, eight TDs) and speedier guys such as Deandre Perez (25, 235), Jack Arnone (33, 316) and Jose Rodriguez (25, 238).
Defensively, Newsome is also much better than last year, applying more pressure up front and capitalizing on opportunities in the secondary, hence the four interceptions by Kevin Osborn and three by Devan Belcher.
“I think that type of success goes back to how well-prepared we are,” Sellers said. “We know how to handle situations.”
“We like it when teams feel over-confident when they play us,” Sellers said. “Because we know what we can do.”