Football preview: No. 5 Gaither


At a glance

Coach: Kirk Karson, 5th season

Class: 7A, District 9

Last season: 11-1, lost in region final

Key players: QB Brooks Bentley, Jr.; WR/RB Jacoreyus Demps, Sr.; DE/OLB Mario Eugenio, Sr.; MLB/TE Logan Fiker, Sr.; WR Zion Ingram, Sr.; OT James Mancebo, Sr.; MLB/QB Kobe McCloud, Sr.; WR/DB Drelin Pittman, Sr.; DT Tawfiq Thomas, Sr.; WR/CB/FS Eugene Wilson III, Jr.


Aug. 27 vs. Bloomingdale

Sept. 3 at Chamberlain

Sept. 10 vs. Armwood

Sept. 17 vs. Largo

Sept. 24 vs. Tampa Bay Tech

Oct. 1 at Mitchell

Oct. 8 at Steinbrenner

Oct. 15 vs. Sickles

Oct. 22 at Leto

Oct. 29 at Hillsborough

Nov. 5 Bye


The Cowboys have been on a tremendous run, making the state semifinals for the first time in 2019 and reaching the region final last season. To maintain that success, Gaither has to replace 20 players who graduated, including quarterback Kiael Kelly (Ball State), running back Ricky Parks (Utah), offensive lineman Andrew Kilfoyl (USF), linebackers Hayden Reed (Army) and Nick Bartalo (Charleston Southern) and defensive backs Jordan Oladokun (Samford) and Jordan Young (Florida), all of whom are now playing in college. Fortunately, the roster is deep and can withstand some of those losses. Better still, the Cowboys had some reinforcements arrive. Taking Kelly’s place is Brooks Bentley, the son of USF assistant coach Bobby Bentley, who came from South Carolina to join the Bulls’ staff. The younger Bentley is ranked among the nation’s top quarterbacks in the 2023 class and already has an offer from Eastern Kentucky.In the spring, Bentley was 18-of-20 for 170 yards and a touchdown in a win over Steinbrenner. The top target is Drelin Pittman (542 yards and four touchdowns last season). Gaither is loaded on the defensive front with perhaps the two best linemen in the area, Mario Eugenio, a Michigan commit, and Tawfiq Thomas, who will make his college decision this weekend.