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Football team preview: Bishop McLaughlin

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Bishop McLaughlin

At a glance

Coach: Ken Stills (first season)

Class: Sunshine State Conference (independent)

Last year: 1-7

Key players: LB/FB Shane Beatty, Jr.; OL Miller Clark, Sr.; LB/FB Jace Flournoy, Jr.; RB Tre Jackson, Jr.; QB Adrian Miller, Jr.; WR Jack Miller, So.; OL Shane Schull, Sr. 

Schedule

Sept. 11 vs. Keswick Christian

Sept. 18 at St. John’s Country Day

Sept. 25 at Seven Rivers Christian

Oct. 2 vs. Carrollwood Day

Oct. 9 at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic

Oct. 16 at Central Florida Christian

Oct. 23 at St. Petersburg Catholic

Oct. 30 Bye

Nov. 6 vs. Indian Rocks Christian

Things to know

Stills takes the spotlight

In February, Bishop McLaughlin hired Ken Stills as coach. Stills, a former player with the Packers and Vikings (1985-90), is the father of Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills. The elder Stills had plenty of coaching experience at just about every level. He was head coach with the River City Rage with the United Indoor Football League and running backs coach with the Los Angeles Xtreme of the XFL and at IMG Academy in Bradenton. Stills became the Hurricanes’ third coach in as many years. His biggest task is to turn around a program that went 1-7 last year and has not had a winning season since 2010. 

Go-to guys

Expect Tre Jackson and Scott Miller to have prominent roles on offense. Jackson, a conference champion in the 100 meters, has 4.4 speed and should get at least 20 touches a game according to Stills. Last season, Jackson rushed for 616 yards and averaged a whopping 11.2 yards per carry. Miller led the nation in receiving yards among freshmen for a four-week stretch last season. He finished with 21 catches for 577 yards, an average of 27.5 yards per catch. Those two playmakers will make life easier for quarterback Adrian Miller, a first-time starter, and an offensive line that has just two players with significant experience, Shane Scholl (transfer from Hudson) and Miller Clark. 

Swarming defensive speedsters

Stills said one the team’s biggest strengths is speed, particularly on defense. Every starter on that side of the ball runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds or less. Jackson, the team’s top returning tackler, will be counted as a two-way player. He will be joined by Jesuit transfer Shane Beatty and Jace Flourney to round out the linebacker unit. 

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The Hernando County Football Player of the Week

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FB/LB Zack Buzze, Sr., Central

This season has been challenging for the winless Bears. 

Outscored 325-22 in eight games, Central tries to accentuate the positives to build upon next season.  

Zack Buzze is one of the bright spots. The linebacker leads the team in tackles with 44. 

Against Gulf two weeks ago, Buzze recorded a team-high 13 tackles. 

That got the attention of fans. Buzze received 49 percent of the votes (699) in the Hernando County football player of the week poll to beat out Hernando’s Jordan Williams, who had 44 percent (628 votes).

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The Pasco County Football Player of the Week

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Hunter McFarland, Sr., Mitchell

After losing 26 players to graduation, Mitchell needed to fill plenty of voids to make the playoffs for the eighth straight season. 

Hunter McFarland has stepped up on defense. 

The senior is enjoying the best season of his high school career. He has 53 tackles, more than he had in his previous two seasons combined. 

McFarland also a nose for the ball — and the quarterback. He has forced three fumbles, recorded 3 ½ sacks and recovered two fumbles. 

Against Hudson two weeks ago, McFarland finished with five tackles, two fumble recoveries, a sack and forced fumble to lead the Mustangs to a victory. 

Fans were impressed. McFarland ended up with 52 percent of the votes (1,462) in the Pasco County football player of the week poll to beat out Zephyrhills Christian’s Jayce Nixon, who had 34 percent (955 votes).  

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The Pinellas County Football Player of the Week

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LB Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

A transfer from Seminole, Garrick Ponder wasted no time making an impact. 

The senior not only became a starter but also turned into one of the area’s defensive stars.

Ponder leads the Patriots in tackles (72), sacks, (six), forced fumbles (three) and fumble recoveries (two). Those numbers are a big reason the Patriots are 6-1 and currently tied with Northeast for second place in Class 6A, District 11. 

Against St,. Petersburg, Ponder had one of his best performances, finishing with 14 tackles and a sack. 

Fans were impressed. Ponder received 40 percent of the votes (812) in the Pinellas County football player of the week poll to beat out Keswick Christian’s Caleb Morris, who had 32 percent (646).   

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