TAMPA – The Cambridge Christian Lancers are adding an impressive structure to the foundation that’s been left for them to build upon. The coaching staff, administration and parents are doing their collective bests to turn the boys in that program into men–not just a member of the male species–and their young men are beginning to bear fruit.
Head Coach Bob Dare is in his seventh season at the school located exactly 1.8 miles from Tampa Catholic and Jesuit, just 5.6 miles from Berkeley Prep, less than eight miles from their district rivals Carrollwood Day School and countless public schools in the city. He’s 36-26 overall and coming off an 8-2 season. His team is loaded with freshman and sophomores and they’ve outscored their opponents 83-10 already.
Dare attributes the Lancers success to many things, but mainly–it’s about the collective effort of the “community” that is Cambridge Christian; an oasis among the concrete.
We spoke with Coach Dare yesterday and had him explain to us what’s good with the Lancers and how their success–present and future–is only as good as the village that’s raising their young men. Here now is Bob Dare, Head Coach of the Cambridge Christian Lancers–in his own words.
BCP: Coach–you’ve got talent that some folks are starting to recognize–and they’ve only just begun their high school careers in many regards. Tell us what the experience has been for you thus far and what this season holds in store for your boys?
Bob Dare – “We’re really excited about this season–we have been since last spring–we had a spring game against Calvary that we won 35-0–I’ve got a bunch of sophomore kids that got experience as freshman last year–now they’re the main guys on the team–we graduated 13 seniors from last year and we graduated Garrett Young who was probably 85-percent of our offense and he’s playing at Michigan Tech right now. Our young guys have really stepped up–quarterback Jaylin Jackson–a sophomore who’s got off to a really good start–we’ve got a running back Andrew Cunningham who started for us since he was an eighth-grader and Richard Gouraige who everybody knows about because he’s six-foot-five one of those offensive tackles-defensive tackles that’s getting looks–I’ve had some people come through my office on account of him I’ve never seen before–some schools I NEVER see visits from like Ohio State and Michigan–having some physical size DOES matter so that’s been good. Last year my leading corner Derrick Powell as a freshman last season played really well and now that he’s a sophomore I’m expecting some big things from him–and then we had two guys transfer in which is a major blessing–especially when you know nothing about it. J’kobi Reddick from Tampa Catholic just giving us more speed that we haven’t had as a defensive back and as a slot receiver and then we have Aaron Pierre–also from Tampa Catholic–a strong safety/running back–who are both juniors so that also gives us some much needed depth for sure.”
BCP – At the 2A level–having depth at virtually every position goes an awfully long way. Cambridge is the “forgotten” school because of Tampa Catholic, Jesuit and Berkeley Prep all being within a stones throw of CCS’ campus in addition to a budding rival in Carrollwood Day School just under eight miles to the north. There’s something that the school has to be offering that separates itself from the crowd since these kids talent-wise could play at several other schools in the area–not just private either.
Bob Dare – “This is my seventh year at the school and my first year we had maybe 20 kids in the program–we had to play JV kids just to fill out the rosters and now we’ve gone well past that–it’s a testament to the kids and the parents the way they’ve bought in to the system and to the program. We’re trying to teach them how to become men–we’re using the biblical principles–and as a matter of fact I missed the earlier call from you guys because we were in a team meeting discussing the principle about what it means to be a real man as opposed to just being a male. In our culture there’s a lot of males–but the real men seem to be few and far-between at this moment. We feel like we’re doing thing the right way and that God’s blessed us and that we’re moving in the right direction with these young men as a whole.”
BCP – What’s the biggest challenge for Cambridge Christian? What’s the biggest obstacle aside from the unforeseen a la injuries, weather cancellations, etc? The expectations are going to (if they haven’t already) rise this season for the Lancers, aren’t they?
Bob Dare – “8-2 last year and I think they expectations are starting to gather based on the foundation that senior class left for us. I think the expectations are to compete for a district championship–with teams like Carrollwood Day and then Seffner (Christian) who came into the district are strong. Obviously Carrollwood Day has been able to reload over the past few years and we just know that we have a niche here in this area of Tampa–our school has grown–we have 260 kids in the high school–which is obviously a small school, but we’re busting out of the seams and we can’t really fit any more kids on campus–so that’s actually a good thing though. The whole school is really healthy right now–but the expectations are really going up. We’ve got some guys that are making it hard for us to find teams to play us, too. The schedule is a balancing act–it’s getting hard to schedule schools of our size in the 2A, we’ve got plenty of the bigger schools that want to play us, but we want to play schools similar to us as well. The case being is the case for all schools are size–lineman. Finding lineman that are sized and play can be difficult. We can find skill guys and athletes, but finding those lineman can be difficult which is a reason why small schools aren’t always jumping to play the bigger schools.”
BCP: Let’s go back to the teaching them how to be men topic–some of your kids can basically go anywhere they want to play–but they’re not. The kids are coming to play at that school for a reason. The fact that you as a coach, an administration and teachers are trying to establish a specific culture of accountability and respect–it’s got to be as big of a rush for the parents of these kids that are trusting you with them as it is for the kids themselves when they produce on the field, doesn’t it?
Bob Dare – “We say that we’re in partnership with these families, and we have this small-school, small-town atmosphere within the big city. We’ve got some pretty nice things going on over here and we’ve got some great coaches that have come on board and raised the level for this program. I feel really blessed obviously. I haven’t had this kind of feeling about a team I’ve coached in 30 years.”
BCP: The small classifications–mainly the 2A and 3A don’t get the love they deserve statewide. Do people understand how tough it is to come out of this region–let alone the section and win a state title?
Bob Dare – “I don’t think they understand the difficulty. There’s the CCC’s and the Indian Rocks Christian’s and the Victory Christian’s but they don’t realize the caliber of teams just behind them like Northside Christian. With the 3A schools any given year you could have the CCC’s, the Berkeley Preps’, the Tampa Catholic’s and Lakeland Christians’ of the world making noise. There’s some really good talent at this level. I know some of them are playing the bigger schools to take that next step towards respect across the board–I don’t think we’re quite at that level yet, I doubt you’ll see scheduling Plant anytime soon but I definitely think the talent in this area goes from 8A all the way down to the 1A and 2A levels.”