Football team preview: Jesuit


At a glance

Coach: Matt Thompson (eighth season)

Class: 5A, District 12

Last season: 11-3 (lost in state semifinals)

Key players: OG Tre’quan Alexander, Jr.; LB Troy Bowles, Jr.; DB Aiden Clark, Sr.; MLB AJ Cottrill, Jr.; WR Jadyn Girard, Jr.; QB Joe Pesansky, Sr.; RB Joquez Smith, So.; RB/CB Junior Vandeross, Jr.;S Wade Woodaz, Jr.


Sept. 4 at Fort Myers Bishop Verot

Sept. 11 vs. Clearwater

Sept. 17 at Sarasota Booker

Oct. 2 vs. Chamberlain

Oct. 9 vs. Clearwater Central Catholic

Oct. 15 vs. Robinson

Oct. 23 at Gibbs

Oct. 30 vs. Bradenton Bayshore

Nov. 6 vs. Tampa Catholic

Things to know

Loss of stars brings team together

At first glance, Jesuit appeared to be in dire straits. Three Division I-A recruits — quarterback Kiael Kelly (Ball State), running back Ricky Parks (Utah) and defensive back Jordan Young (Florida) — transferred to Gaither in the offseason. Those losses, coupled with the graduation of other key players, seemed to spell doom and many questioned how the Tigers would do without them. The answer: just as well. Maybe even better. Jesuit’s incredible depth is now paying dividends. Three quarterbacks — Luke Knight, Jack Lennon and Joe Pesanski — are all vying to replace Kelly. Pesanski has emerged as the leader and will start in the opener, though Jesuit coach Matt Thompson said all three would see playing time during the season.That trio has the luxury of throwing to Jadyn Girard, who led the team in receiving yards (548) and touchdown receptions (eight) last season.  Instead of relying on one back, the Tigers will count on three — Junior Vandeross, Joquez Smith and Myles Coates — to get things done in the ground game. As for the defensive secondary, Thompson said this is the best group he has ever had, even without Young. The leaders in that deep group include Aiden Clark, Tyler Corish, Andre Gilbert Jr., Hayes Greep, Caleb Williams and Wade Woodaz. 

Big bodies in the trenches

Tre’quan Alexander’s highlight tape is fun to watch. The 6-foot-3, 290 pound junior sends opposing defenders, forcefully and repeatedly, as he clears lanes for the running game. The clear leader up front, Alexander is joined in the interior of the line by Jonathan Dawson (6-0, 255) and Preston Simon (6-2, 270). The biggest holes to fill were at the tackle spots, where Connor McLaughlin (Stanford) and Trevor Mayberry (Navy) both graduated. Jesuit is replacing them with Wesley Shaw (6-2, 225) and Jonah Tran (6-1, 240). Even the tight ends are big. Michael Leonardo (6-1, 230), Jake Rupp (6-4, 225) and Hansen Rix (6-6, 195) will all see playing time as they try to replace Jonathan Odom, now a freshman at Florida. The trend continues on the other side of the ball with a defensive line Thompson said is his biggest yet. That group includes Omarion Clark (6-1,285), RJ McCullough (6-0, 280) and Jonas Jonsson (6-4, 235), a move-in from Maryland. 

Tacking machine

Linebackers who can rack up impressive tackling numbers seemingly roll off the assembly line at Jesuit. AJ Cottrill is the latest. The junior finished last season with 152 tackles and will be flanked on each by the Bowles brothers, Todd and Troy, whose father is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator.