He had kind of waited on it for his whole career at Tampa Bay Tech – that undefeated regular season that seemed to allude Jayson Roberts. His Titans had a chance to do it in 2016 – Sean Callahan had to say something about that.
If it wasn’t for a big game from Brian Snead, Devin Black and co., it might’ve been a different story.
A week one battle with the Hawks highlights the Titans 2017 schedule, as well as a road trip to Hillsborough in the midst of a run for their second consecutive 7A-9 district championship. 7A-9 will be contested, yet again, in which Tampa Bay Tech will have to prove they can remain the favorite.
Winning the district will be one thing, going undefeated is another.
“We got something for Armwood. We got something for everyone,” said Tampa Bay Tech RB Jaquavious Johnson. Johnson led the Titans in rushing last season and is primed to do it again, adding a bit more to the passing offense that is seen through QB Michael Penix Jr. Johnson ran for 617 yards on 94 carries with seven rushing touchdowns in 2016.
He adds an interesting dimension to the Tech offense – many think it’s got all to do with the passing game with Penix Jr. and UF-signee Daquon Green on the outside, which it was, at times, but Johnson played an important part in the road to a second round playoff berth. Even so, Johnson isn’t convinced it was enough.
“I really feel like I could’ve done even more for my team. I wanted 1,000 yards, it was just hard with two other running backs ahead of me. I felt I should’ve done more with the amount of carries I had,” Johnson said. “Each game really started to feel like the tempo picked up, and the playoff experience really helped me know what I’m expected to do for next year.”
Next season’s run doesn’t include Green, Anthony Payne, Trent Wyatt, and a number of other offensive and defensive talents for the Titans. However, Penix Jr. gets another year under center, Levi Jackson is back, as well as three-star DE Jonathan King and CB Darren Turner. From there, it’s a mix of guys needing to step up and play well in addition to the stars doing their part.
“Coach had just talked to me about how we’re really starting to get respect from the other teams in the county, and I like that. We did our thing last year and now we’ve gotta just keep getting better as a whole,” Johnson said.
The football Titans are learning from their basketball peers, who haven’t lost a game in the ’16-’17 season, taking that 23-0 record into their own battle with St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening, who the football Titans beat in the opening playoff round back in November, in thrilling double overtime fashion.
“I really see us going all the way next year, just like the basketball team is about to do.”
That’ll take some guts, especially in trying to take down St. Thomas Aquinas at the end of it all. They’ll be the likely opponent in the 7A Semi-Final, since both teams are on the same side of the bracket. The Raiders dismantled Venice 46-8 and then Plant 45-6 in the semis and championship game, respectively. STA is trying to joint Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy as one of the active four-or-more consecutive state championships in a row in 2017.
Having Penix Jr. in the same backfield for year two will definitely be a plus in their quest for a deeper playoff run. Their bond has done nothing but grown since the time Penix stepped on campus, according to Johnson. “It’s funny because we originally were like, ‘there’s a kid coming from Pasco, there’s a kid coming from Pasco,’ and we already had Trent, but that first day of practice he was there, we knew he was going to be pretty good.”
A 31:1 TD:INT ratio was pretty nice for the first-year Titan. It’s what helped net him an Oregon verbal offer.
That makes two guys with big-time college potential in Green and Penix Jr., which made Tampa Bay Tech a very fun place to play for Johnson and the rest of his Titans.
“It’s been amazing to have them. I always used to be the one to take control and be the outspoken leader of a team and it was really nice to step back a bit for this year. We really just had an all-star team. I always knew that Mike and Quan was going to get the play done.”
At the moment, it’s the little things, including leadership. With MLB Angelo Owens gone, Johnson now looks to become a much more vocal leader.
“I really want to take over his role and get things done. Angelo was the heart of the team, the hype, he kept everybody tight. As a leader, I ultimately want to give back to my team,” Johnson said.