For a team that finds itself in the public eye fairly often, there is a surprising amount of the unknown surrounding Cocoa High football as the season approaches.
For the past two seasons, the Tigers have struggled to hit the highest gear with their offense. Since quarterback Matt Younger’s senior season of 2009, the passing game has been not been a significant factor. Though there have been plenty of big running plays since, the team’s ability to break one regardless of the opponent has lessened with Chevelle Buie’s departure a year later.
One or both of those things might be about to change. The Tigers open their season at the University of Maryland at 4 p.m. Sunday against Gonzaga College High of the District of Columbia, and what they will do is still a mystery. Head coach John Wilkinson has said he will spread out his offense, but he hasn’t said much more in terms of specifics.
“You’ve got to play to your personnel,” Wilkinson said Monday. “We’ll be spread, but more power-type spread. It’s all fresh. I don’t want to say we were stale, but it’s more a need of fitting our personnel.”
As new as anybody else on that list of personnel, but potentially a key in spreading things out, is freshman quarterback Bruce Judson, whom Wilkinson said is a threat to run or throw.
The Tigers have some returning threats, starting with two-year fullback Lorrenzo Pratt, who made a splash with an 85-yard touchdown scamper against Cincinnati Colerain as a sophomore but has spent most of his career behind others.
“I think he’s going to have a really good year for us,” Wilkinson said. “Instead of being kind of a third wheel, he’ll be the main guy.”
Though the coach described his ball carriers as mostly scatbacks, he said Pratt is the most physical. Jamel Dean may be the purest speedster. He was third in the 100 meters (10.67 seconds) at the 2A state meet in April, and his long jump of 22-9½ was fourth.
Beyond that, Wilkinson said his team is “really young at the skill positions.”
“It’s going to come down to our offensive line, how they come together,” he said. “We’re huge, but that doesn’t guarantee we’re good.”
Depending on how much some of the two-way linemen play on offense, that line could range from two experienced returnees to four.
Dean also will be an important contributor on defense, where his 6-foot-1 frame is tall for a high school defensive back. The secondary could be its best since the Tigers won state championships in 2008, ’09 and ’10 by nearly shutting down some of the state’s best passing teams. Joining Dean are Jamel Jackson and Chauncey Garder. James Folston, who has grown to 6-2 and 195 pounds, could move to outside linebacker.
Up front, two-way lineman Freddie Booth-Lloyd is a mainstay. Fellow senior lineman Lane Burnett made a splash in the spring game against Miami Northwestern, and Tavares Parks has been a pain to opposing quarterbacks for the past two years.
Those who are curious about the offense will have to wait for Sunday’s opener to see what the season holds for that phase of the game. Wilkinson, too, will have to wait until Sunday to see what his entire team does in a real game. The Tigers lost their preseason opponent too late to find a replacement, so they were inactive Friday.
“I’m just anxious because we didn’t play a kickoff classic,” he said. “Programs use those to get the kinks out. We kind of have to get ours out in practice.”
2013 Tigers Schedule
2013 Tigers Schedule
Sept. 1 x–vs. Gonzaga College High (DC)
Sept. 6 at East Lee County
Sept. 13 Astronaut
Sept. 20 at Delray Bch. Am. Heritage
Oct. 4 Cocoa Beach
Oct. 11 Seabreeze
Oct. 18 at Space Coast
Oct. 25 Atlantic
Nov. 1 at Jones
Nov. 8 at Rockledge
x–at College Park, Md.
% St. Joseph’s (Pa.) L, 16-7
University of NSU L, 49-3
at Warner Christian W, 28-0
at Merritt Island W, 17-0
at Cocoa Beach W, 40-6
at Bergen County, N.J. W, 24-14
Jones W, 31-24
at Lake Highland Prep W, 35-0
Rockledge W, 27-0
# Clewiston W, 56-7
$ Jones W, 35-7
& Miami Washington L, 41-13
% Disney’s Wide World of Sports
# Regional semifinal
$ Regional final
& State semifinal