Seabreeze 2014 record: (5-6)
Jeff's take (4-6): For the first time in the millennium, someone other than Marc Beach will lead the Sandcrabs program, and that will be former assistant coach Gerald “Skip” Saunier. Saunier will not be the only newbie who takes the field at a key position; transfer Anthony Butler will be taking snaps under center.
Though they are new in their places at Seabreeze, both have a good deal of experience. Saunier previously coached at Port Orange Atlantic for five years, and last year Butler finished third in the area in passing with Warner Christian.
Similar to last year, nearly all of the Sandcrabs’ offensive linemen have little varsity experience, so Saunier, Butler and Sylvester will have their hands full to return to the postseason.
BOX: Running back Javier Sylvester
He has no weakness as a running back. Javier Sylvester has the frame of a back and the hands and speed of a wide receiver. As the new top playmaker for the Sandcrabs, his skills that produced a 66-yard run against DeLand, 137 yards and two TDs against Deltona and another two scores on the ground against Pine Ridge will only make larger numbers with his expanded role.
Danny's take (3-7): Marc Beach stepped down after 14 seasons with the Sandcrabs to take a coaching job in Georgia. He left behind a squad with plenty of question marks. The Sandcrabs always seem to find a way to improve and get better—which wouldn’t surprise me if it happened again—but I think that hole is a little too deep for coach Skip Saunier and Seabreeze in 2015. Replacing linebackers Chayce Hamilton and Cole Dunagan will be tough, not to mention top wideout Raushod Floyd and quarterback Jeremiah Wilson. Anthony Butler, who had 1,425 yards and 17 touchdowns for Warner Christian last season, is a solid athlete who can make things happen.
FPC 2014 record: 8-3
Jeff's take (6-5): The talk among other area players is FPC has lost too many valuable pieces to be relevant this year. Some even say Matanzas will get its first victory over its crosstown rival. Other than last year’s leading rusher, quarterback Dalton Thomas and a few other returners, the Bulldogs will look like a completely different team, beginning at the man with the headset. At least new head coach Tommy Moody has experience where it counts, the quarterback and running back.
BOX: Running back Que'Shaun Byrd
For Byrd, it’s going to be difficult to beat, or even repeat his last-year numbers. As the area’s top rusher, he went for nearly 1,350 yards and scored 19 touchdowns, although he sat out a game due to an injury. Before anyone tells Byrd it’s impossible to repeat his successful year, don’t waste your time. “With the help of my offensive line, I plan on having more rushing yards, touchdowns, an overall better season than last year,” he said.
Danny's take (7-4): The Bulldogs sent coach Caesar Campana out on a high note last season, ending a playoff drought that dated back to 2010. There’s no question FPC lost more than its coach, however, mainly playmakers Marcel Williams, Jimmie Robinson and defensive standout Jon Muniz. Personally, I always thought Williams was the most underrated player in Central Florida, and his loss will hurt, a lot. But coach Tommy Moody will take FPC back to the postseason on the wide shoulder pads of tailback Que’Shaun Byrd and the seasoned arm of Dalton Thomas. Byrd is an absolute monster and enough to tilt the scales in a winnable District 1-8A.
Mainland 2014 record: 13-1
Jeff's take (14-1, state champs): Season after season after season for the Bucs has concluded the same way: a state semifinal loss to Miami Central.
With the area’s best quarterback (Denzel Houston), offensive lineman (Marcus Tatum), safety (Cyrus Fagan) and defensive linemen (Kevin McCrary and Jachai Polite), they hope this will be the year that will not get away from them. My take: They have too much talent to not get sized for state rings now.
BOX: Running back Adrian Killins
This year already belongs to the 200-meter state track champion. He ran the fastest time at a regional football camp, and colleges like Miami continue to beg him to join them, after watching his many touchdown runs. Adrian Killins has one thing left to conquer: a state football championship with his team.
Danny's take (14-1, state champs): This year’s one-loss season will look nothing like last year’s. When December finally rolls around, expect the Bucs to be the last team standing in Class 6A. Quarterback Denzel Houston, tailback Adrian Killins and a defense loaded with prized talent (think safety Cyrus Fagan) will finally shed the anvil that is Miami Central and hoist their first state title since 2003. I’m penciling in a loss on the road at national power St. Edward (Ohio). No matter what happens there, Mainland will come out better for it.
Matanzas 2014 record: 2-7
Jeff's take (5-5): In just one year as the Matanzas head coach, Robert Ripley has transformed the culture of his program. Every player I spoke with believes the Pirates will turn out the most successful season in the program’s history, including a first-time win over Flagler Palm Coast. The Pirates are returning a lot of experienced players, including star receiver Andre Bodison and running back Daniel Dillard. My take: It may take a another year or so to become what they want to be.
BOX: Running back Daniel Dillard
He rushed for the most yards in Pirate history (1,189) while also finding the end zone 10 times. Daniel Dillard plans to blow away those numbers his senior season.
“My goal this year is 1,500; 150 yards per game is definitely doable,” he said. “You have to look to outdo yourself, and a lot of it comes with the hard work you do with your teammates.”
Danny's take (6-5): Robert Ripley is a straightforward coach. When I last spoke with him, he kept coming back to the facts: The Pirates haven’t won a district game in three years and have never made the playoffs. Ever. So projecting a playoff run here is, well, a projection. But I’m looking strictly in two places: Talent and experience. Tailback Danny Dillard (the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher) and wideout Andre Bodison should provide enough offense for a stingy defense. Not to mention, District 13-6A, outside of Mainland, is simply filled with holes.
Father Lopez 2014 record: 5-5
Jeff's take (6-4): It is no secret that Father Lopez is not the same football team that victoriously walked off the field after a 41-10 romp of Taylor in the final game of the season. The Green Wave lost two of their best players to transfers, but, according to coach Jason Dunlap, they’ve never been more focused and on the same page.
“We don’t have any ‘me’ players here anymore,” Dunlap said. “We’ve had the best six practices we’ve ever had here. We have a great leader in Juwan (Ross), and I can’t say we’ve ever had a leader, or a one like him. I’ve been waiting for someone to emerge like him, who will show the younger guys how to lead. It’s hard to teach leadership; you actually have to see it.”
Dunlap also boasted about some of the freshmen, who have emerged as starters, including Ross’s brother, Jeremiah, a running back and linebacker, saying they were some of the best freshmen he’s seen come through the school.
Lopez failed to reach the playoffs last season but, but they beat rivals, Warner Christian, for the first time. My take: They will get a second win over WC and return to the playoffs this year.
BOX: Running back Marquis Williams
The last game he played, Marquis Williams rushed for 275 yards and five touchdown — in just the first half against Taylor. For the season, Williams ran for nearly 800 yards and found the end zone 13 times, but, as a running back, receiver, punt and kick returner, he believes everyone in the area will be looking up to him on stat leader boards.
“I’ve been working hard, and working with teammates and coaches, I want to lead the county in all-purpose yards
and touchdowns,” he said.
Danny's take (5-5): Defensive end C.J. Williams and wideouts Brant Williams and Nick Eastman all transferred. That leaves quarterback Josh Spencer and tailback Marquis Williams to do the heavy lifting if the Green Wave plan to make a playoff run after missing last season. Spencer has a strong arm and can really hurt teams on the ground. Williams, a district champion in the 100-meter dash, showed flashes of elite ability in 2014. Senior lineman Juwan Ross is also a talented guy in the middle for coach Jason Dunlap.