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Football team preview: Jesuit

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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.

Schedule

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. 

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Flag Football

Sydney Stout reaches 100 touchdown passes — this season

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Robinson quarterback Sydney Stout reached an impressive milestone with her 100th touchdown pass on Monday.   

That is not a career mark.

Stout reached that total this season.

The senior already had shattered the flag football single-season state record of 79 touchdown passes and entered the Class 2A region final needing just three touchdowns to hit triple digits. 

No problem. 

Stout threw four touchdown passes — in the first half. 

She added another in the second half to give her 102, a number that will continue to grow. 

After all, the Knights beat Lecanto 34-0 in the region final. Robinson, which has won state titles in five of the past six seasons (the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic), advances to the state semifinals on Friday. Stout could end up playing in two more games if the Knights keep their state title streak intact. 

And there’s a good chance of that happening considering Robinson has outscored foes by a combined 816-50 this year.  

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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