813Preps Football Notebook for Weeks 1 & 2
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By Rick Cantor
Young Ravens building on last year’s strong finish
TAMPA – The Ravens quietly went on an offensive tear in the second half of the 2021 season, finishing with a 4-1 record and averaging over 41 points per game in that span and finishing 6-4 overall. Alonso has picked up right where they left off in lighting up the scoreboard. First-year head coach Hayden Cantrell was the Offensive Coordinator during last season’s final stretch, so there was continuity coming into 2022.
The Ravens turned heads in week one with a 73-8 win over Freedom, and followed up that effort with a 40-18 over Blake.
While outscoring their first two opponents 113-26 may be a surprise to some, it is not to those in Alonso’a relatively young locker room.
“We are a sophomore-heavy team,” said Cantrell. “But we had high expectations going into the season.”
Two of the sophomores putting up big numbers are running back Josh Andrews and quarterback Terrell Russell, Jr.
Andrews had his coming-out party against Blake running for 247 yards and four scores in the victory. Russell, a transfer from Cambridge Christian, has tossed six touchdowns throughout two weeks and has impressed Cantrell with his acumen.
“A lot of quarterbacks his age will make one read and throw,” said Cantrell of Russell. “He can go through a full four receiver progression.”
On defense, 5-8 260-pound junior defensive tackle Levaun Hall leads the way, with Cantrell noting he has been, “a leader since day one for us.”
The Ravens face Spoto (0-2) on the road tonight.
Sharks “count” on each other and are counting wins
RIVERVIEW – It’s hard to start a head coaching career any better than first-year Riverview coach Tony Rodriguez has. His Sharks have outscored their first two opponents 99-0 with wins over Brandon (45-0) and Freedom (54-0).
Rodriguez started as an assistant at his alma mater (and Riverview rival) East Bay and worked his way up. This included a stint at Enterprise High in Alabama coaching under legendary head coach Rick Darlington, formerly of Apopka.
His first charge was to change the culture at Riverview, no more missed practices or weight room sessions.
“Our saying this year is ‘Count on Me’,“ said Rodriguez, a mantra of “team concept” that has led to early-season success.
Leading the way on offense are running back Dontavious Shoats (11 carries for 199 yards, an 18.1 yards per carry avg, and four touchdowns) and Davidson commit Harrison Hensley (seven receptions, 204 yards, four TDs).
The defense is led by senior Zion “The Joker” King-Collier, a 5-foot-9 transfer from Armwood, who was told he was too small to play safety at the varsity level.
“They told me I was too small and kept sending me down to JV,” said King-Collier. “I came here for an opportunity to play.”
With a defensive line applying constant pressure, and junior middle linebacker Niko Gnann making plays all over the field, Collier and his band of defensive backs are free to make plays.
“AT (Alloy Tyson), Anad Charles, Darreyn Belcher, Johntavious Harris, Marcus Carey – all these guys make plays,” said Collier. “I feel like all these guys can play at the next level.”
The Sharks will look to continue the hot start to the season while visiting Chamberlain (0-2) tonight.
Leto took Week 1 lumps, but responded with a grind-it-out win
TAMPA – First-year Leto coach Ron Perisee didn’t mind the steady rain falling during Friday’s game versus Brandon.
“We had to abandon or game plan,” said Perisee, “but I’m kind of old school, so I loved it. I knew it would be a slugfest.”
Perisee was correct, the game was indeed a slugfest, won by the Falcons 2-0. It was the second-consecutive season where Leto won a 2-point contest versus Brandon (winning 14-12 in 2021).
“I would have liked to have scored a touchdown,” said Perisee. “We had the ball on the one and fumbled. But a win is a win, we will take it.”
While Perisee knows building a program at Leto will take time, he is encouraged by number of players that turned out this fall, doubling the number of players who participated in summer conditioning.
After a blowout loss to Blake in week one, a game described as “quicksand” by Perisee, the Falcons didn’t put their heads down. The coach saying, “We went out and had a great week of practice.”
Among the standouts in the win versus Brandon were punter Sammy Soler, who consistently pinned the Eagles in its own territory, defensive lineman James Harris, linebacker Joevanny Rivera, running back Jon Alexander-Smith, athlete RJ Swain, and Enrik Gonsalves, a first-year player and starting tackle.
The Falcons face Freedom (0-2) on Friday, with an opportunity to be 2-1 after three games for the time since 1996 according to Perisee.