With the infamous losing streak now dead, the Chargers are looking to keep trending in the right direction.
Last season for Strawberry Crest was all about breaking “the streak.” For the first time since the school’s seniors were in the eighth grade, the Chargers won. Mission complete.
This year’s mission? Be competitive and win some more games. It’s easier said than done, especially in 7A-District 9 play, but Crest is hopeful.
“We’ll see,” head coach Ron Hawn said. “I think we’ve got a chance to be pretty competitive.”
This year’s team may not be quite as athletic as last year’s, Hawn said, but it’s scrappy and physical. It took some time to find its identity after graduations and Jaquell Narine’s transfer but, now that the preseason’s over, the pieces are falling into place.
Offensively, Hawn described the starting quarterback job as Caleb Goodson’s to lose. Goodson, who backed up Jarrett Rappe last year, competed for the role with Makenzie Kennedy, who transferred from Durant after the school’s spring jamboree game. Hawn said whoever didn’t win the job would move over to receiver, an area where the Chargers need help.
“We’re trying to find our legs but we’ve got some good receivers. We don’t have the taller, longer-bodied kids,” Hawn said.
With tall receivers Rio Oliver and Jamar Hart now in college, Crest is hoping freshman Jayden Girard can carry over strong offseason 7-on-7 play to the real deal.
“He’s a good player, Hawn said. “He really showed us some good stuff in 7-on-7 all summer long.”
Tommy Johnson and Ethan Calaway — whom Hawn described as “like one of those little lizards that runs on water” due to his speed — round out the receiving group. A committee approach to the running back situation may be in play, though Hawn said the preseason game against Seminole would clear that up once they get the pads on and go.
The offense is also where fans will see the most of the giant Gonzalez brothers, Jose and Juan. The Dominican brothers are playing football for the first time, but it’s not hard to see why they got noticed for the job: Offensive lineman Jose is 6-foot-9 and tight end Juan is 6-foot-7, both look like grown men among boys and are athletic enough that there’s potential there to be special.
Jose has gotten the most attention from the media and college teams, but Juan is the one Hawn said people need not sleep on.
“The surprise is really Juan,” Hawn said. “The story is, I’ll sometimes say things that I shouldn’t say, and I guess I may have said — and it got back to him — that Juan’s a nice kid but I just don’t think he’s gonna be football. He doesn’t seem to be mean or tough, doesn’t seem to have that mean streak. I don’t know that that’s exactly what I said or whatever but between all the attention that Jose got and something that I may or may not have said, it really sparked a fire in him. He’s a tough kid. As a tight end he can catch everything and he’s obviously just a big, physical force.”
Due to the makeup of the offensive personnel, Hawn said the Chargers are “going back to our roots” with the spread offense.
Crest is using the same defense it’s been using under Hawn, a scheme somewhere between a 3-4 and a 4-2-5 with “minor adaptations.” Hawn is excited to have a senior-heavy defense featuring three-year starters Josh Young, Hasan Sharrieff and Tyson Rosania at linebacker and two-year starter Cody Newman back at free safety.
“He’s the best free safety ‘I’ve ever had, anywhere,” Hawn said.
Rosania, who has long played defensive back for Crest, was moved to a linebacker position Hawn said better suits him. Defensive lineman Josh Young will stay the defensive line but move into an improv-friendly role similar to what Kisean Ruth had in 2017.
“He’s a very aggressive kid,” Hawn said. “He’s in a better spot because there can be more improv at that position. It’s more of a ‘just go’ position… he’s a kid we can just kind of set loose.”
It’s also going to be a good moment for linebacker Adam Ibarra, who injured his shoulder and didn’t get to play last season. Hawn said Ibarra’s shoulder has healed and he’s cleared to play again.
Hawn called the 2018 team “significantly better” than last year’s. If the Chargers want to compete, they should hope Hawn’s evaluations are on the money. That would help with a “meat grinder” of a schedule featuring Tampa Bay Tech, Chamberlain, Plant City and Bloomingdale. It may be the easiest schedule among the three Plant City-area teams, but that doesn’t mean Crest is dealing with a bunch of “cupcake” games.
“We’re in kind of the Big Ten of our area. This is a good district,” Hawn said. “We could be probably the best 2-8, 3-8 team in the area last year. We beat Seminole and Seminole turned around and beat Countryside.”
Hawn and the Chargers would be happy with picking up a few more wins and seeing if their moxie can help them steal a few they otherwise wouldn’t get.
THREE TO SEE
Tyson Rosania (LB, Sr.)
You’re moving from DB to a linebacker position this year that may be a good fit for you. What are you most excited for?
I’m excited to be involved in more tackles this year. Last year I was on the weak side as a safety, now I’m on the strong side as a linebacker. Hopefully I’ll be involved more with the defense.
What do you enjoy more about playing linebacker than defensive back?
I just like the contact involved with it. Playing closer to the line, there’s less space. I just like making contact early, I guess. Less time to think about the process of tackling.
What did you learn from last season that you’re taking into this one?
I learned how to win, realistically. We got two wins, so we want to build off of that. We want to finish games. We’re always pretty good in the first half and then, in the second half, we fall apart. We’re gonna look to close out games, continue drives and stop the offense when they’re pushing at the end of the game.
Jonah Spivey (OL, Jr.)
You guys finally got some wins last year. What did you learn from that season that you’re doing this year?
Just to be more aggressive on the line and hold my ground more than last year. I’m a little bit smaller than I was. Just keep going.
What are your strengths as a player?
My strengths are getting low under people because I’m smaller than everybody else, but also my technique because not a lot of people have good technique. I’ve got pretty quick feet as a lineman, and my technique with my hands.
What are you looking forward to about this season?
I think we’ve got a pretty good team this season. We’ve got some pretty good players coming in this season, some fast players. I think we’ll do pretty good this season.
What’s been your favorite moment with the team?
The first win last year, and the Seminole game. That was the best.
Cody Newman (FS, Sr.)
Going into this season, what are your expectations?
I’m just hoping the defense can stay stable. When one play goes bad, we tend to fall apart. But I feel like this year we’ve got some good coaches and some good leaders to keep up with us so we can stay stronger all game.
When you’re at risk of falling apart, what’s the key for keeping it all together?
Just to stay focused, because that’s the thing for most teams that’s hard to stay on track with. We just need to stay focused because during the game it’s a lot easier to forget your job. If you can stay focused and not get distracted, it’s easier to get a win.
What are your strengths as a player?
I feel like I’m good with calling the defense, setting it up and making sure everybody’s where they’re supposed to be. I like defending a lot, playing my zones right. It’s fun.
Note: All games scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. District games marked with *.
8/24: @ Spoto
8/31: vs. King
9/14: @ Tampa Bay Tech*
9/21: vs. Durant*
9/28: vs. Plant City* (Farmageddon)
10/5: @ Bloomingdale*
10/12: vs. Riverview
10/19: vs. East Bay*
10/26: @ Lennard*
11/2: @ Chamberlain
Location: 4691 Gallagher Road, Dover
Head Coach: Ron Hawn (3rd season with team)
2017 Record: 2-8 (1-5 district)
1 Ethan Calaway WR Jr.
2 Kadin Durgan DB/TE So.
3 Makenzie Kennedy QB Jr.
4 Tyson Rosania LB/RB Sr.
5 Jadyn Girard WR Fr.
6 Adam Ibarra LB Sr.
7 Zane Tapper RB Sr.
8 Dalton Hunt DB/LS Sr.
9 Hasan Sharrieff DB/RB Sr.
10 Cody Newman DB/WR Sr.
11 Tommy Johnson RB Sr.
12 Joshua Young DL/TE Sr.
13 Jordan Bennett LB Sr.
14 Andre James-Williams RB So.
15 Jesse Waldrop LB So.
16 Caleb Goodson QB/WR Jr.
17 Connor Dias DB So.
18 Christian Hartman WR So.
19 Hunter Wilkinson QB So.
20 D.J. Brannon RB/LB Jr.
21 Temp Paris DB Sr.
22 Lane Best DB So.
24 Bryant Lazare WR Jr.
25 Juan Gonzalez TE Sr.
30 Thomas Spurway DB Jr.
32 Miles Jones DB Fr.
40 Christoval Arevalo DL Jr.
51 Riley Garrison LB Sr.
52 Ben Gude OL Jr.
54 Max Paplin OL So.
55 Jonah Spivey OL Jr.
56 Jake Craig LB So.
59 Justin Pulaski DL Jr.
65 Benjamin Hill OL So.
66 Kevin Claudio DL So.
69 Jose Gonzalez OL Jr.
70 DaQuan McDonald OL Jr.
75 Cayden Knipp OL So.
77 Isaac Ysasi OL Jr.
78 Jackson Bradford OL So.
80 Kyle Troup WR Sr.
84 Joseph Witherington DL Jr.