Spring Progress Report – Part One


We can’t get to all of them, but we’ve made the rounds as best we can the past couple of weeks since the spring air has been filled with the sounds of pads-a-poppin’. We start the tour with a brief roundup of the seven schools from the three-P’s–(Pasco, Pinellas and Polk) that we’ve seen with our own two eyes thus far. All seven have their own story-lines heading into the season and we will highlight those for you plus give a quick take on their progress. Before we go any further however, we want to sincerely give thanks to the coaches that gave us their time while we were in attendance. Let the progress reports begin!

Countryside – Head Coach Eric Schmitz and his staff were “turnt-up on a Tuesday” when we saw them during an extremely intense and efficient start to practice. The core group of guys that were major contributors on the 2015 squad were all doing their part when we saw them, so it wasn’t surprising to see guys like Andrew Brown and Gordon Sandorf set the example and expect their teammates to fall in-line. C-Side obviously has to replace some important players at the skill positions–most notably QB, RB, and WR. They’ll also have replace all but one player along the offensive line, but they’ve got size and some talent–and as soon as that size and talent gets some more experience under their belt, they’ll be good. Rising junior Derek Jenkins (6-1/184) took the snaps at the quarterback position while we there and looked good as well as WR Jordan Payne. Countryside travels to Bradenton on the 27th to face Manatee.

East Lake – The Eagles were bouncing around doing some things when we rolled up to campus–(side note: the deer and sandhill cranes were literally feet from 100+ players getting their football-fix as well–but we digress.) Head Coach Bob Hudson likes the direction his team is headed in so far this spring, and he should be with athletes all over the field. Jackson Rowland and Tyler Rupe both saw action while we were there, so no need to ask the questions yet regarding that position. We’ve already become very familiar with guys like Josh Bowers, Xavier Jackson, Bryce Miller, Tupac Blanch and so on–but guys like T John Laspada (6-3/260) and TE Joshua Fletcher (6-6/224) move way too fast for humans their size–which is a good thing for East Lake and a bad thing for opposing teams. The Eagles will host Osceola on the 27th.


River Ridge – Plenty of questions being asked about what the Royal Knights are going to do without their heart-and-soul the four years, Chris Schwarz. The answer? Find a new guy–or guys–to take over control of the ship and simply go about their business the way they always do. Head Coach Ryan Benjamin and his players are the first ones to acknowledge their guy has left for the next level, but QB Trevor Hawks and guys like Mike Roussos, Dalton O’Toole, Jake Berg and Alex Kostogiannes and more are back which means they shouldn’t skip a beat in terms of chemistry. If we had to pick a main concern, it’s along the offensive line–which over time will gel and is a concern they can fix. The other concern is injuries which would cause some issues on the depth chart, but that’s completely out of their control. River Ridge plays their purple and white game this evening and will play at Tampa Catholic on the 20th.

Mitchell – We caught the Mustangs at their black and gold game and the more things change–the more they stay the same–with the Mustangs thus far. Meaning? Mitchell is well on-track to having a productive spring just like they did in 2015 when they waxed Fivay 62-0 and then went on to win their first district championship in school history and a 9-1 record in the regular season. Although we won’t get too far ahead of ourselves, the core group of players that have been mentioned before–such as Larry DallaBetta III, Adam Rogers, Matt Hegwood, Mychael Hamilton and Mason Castricone all look ready to go and that’s exactly what the staff wants to see.

Kathleen – Every time we are at one of the Red Devils’ practices, teaching is taking place in a major way. The coaching staff is constantly taking advantage of the teachable moments when they present themselves. As far as the season outlook is concerned, they’re going to be really inexperienced in the offensive backfield and at the quarterback, but the defense? Not worrying at all. The speed and quickness on the defensive side of the ball that Kathleen possesses is scary good and should help carry some of the weight until the talent on the offensive side gets its feet wet under live reps.  Guys like Tobias Larry, Ventrell Miller and Jaaron Jackson are having dream offseason’s with the offers piling up for all three of them. Kathleen hosts Ridge Community and Lake Region on the 20th.

Lake Gibson – Up there with one of the best practices we’ve seen thus far. The energy of the staff is also up there with the best of them. They’ll be ushering a new “full-time” starter at the quarterback position since rising junior Kevaris Thomas got plenty of action last season. The staff is extremely positive about his progression this offseason and with the return of 1,200+ yard rusher Travell Jones–also a rising junior–there’s good times ahead, but with a slight caveat. If there was a “concern” for the Braves it would be getting the talented group of young guys in the trenches to come together on the defensive side since their OL appears to be a strength along with their defensive secondary. The Braves get a man-sized jamboree on the 27th when they play Kissimmee-Osecola and Apopka.

Winter Haven – Such an organized practice with no wasted time in the spring heat. The Blue Devils will have to find their playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and will need their offensive line to keep their QB William Tate clean since he has a litany of options developing for him on the outside and in the backfield. Their two running backs’–Yusef Ledbetter (2017) and Javeon Marlow (2018)–should pop on the scene in a nice way this season as both possess great size (5-10/200 & 5-10/180 respectively) and have the potential to be great backs. Winter Haven will host Forest Hill High School out of West Palm Beach on the 27th.