Sporting the largest roster he’s had since arriving in Franklin County two years ago, Seahawk Coach Dirk Strunk is looking forward to Friday night’s Kickoff Classic at the Mikel Clark Sports Complex as a chance to see how well weeks of hard work will show itself on the field.
The four-quarter game gets underway at 7 p.m., with the 32-member Seahawk squad facing Gainesville St. Francis Catholic, a Class 2A school that has seen a string of losing seasons after sporting an 8-2 record five years ago.
“We’ve had a good turnout, the kids are working out and working hard,” said Strunk. “Their attitude is great, more focused. It’s the strongest team I've had since I've been here.
“Our goal is to be better tomorrow than we were today, to take it one day at a time and control what we can control,” he said.
Starting at quarterback will be senior Evan Stanley, and he’ll be backed up at the helm by junior Alex Sterling and freshman Owen Juno.
At running back will be sophomore Ta'Marion Carr and sophomore Garyson Millender, with junior Brayden McCall, the team’s second leading returner last season, as the starting wingback.
As slot receiver will be junior Amontaye Austin, who has recovered from an injury that saddled him much of last season. The outside receiver is junior Ethan Kembro, with tight end duties handled by senior Mason Moses.
On the line, the strong tackle is sophomore Sheldon James and strong guard senior Kevin Sullivan, with the center sophomore Michael Hill. The quick guard is senior Parker Mock and the quick tackle junior Corbin Pritchard.
On the defensive side of the ball, Sullivan will play tackle, with eighth grader Jordan Shiver at nose guard.
The ends will be manned by junior Lonnie O’Neal and Moses. Inside linebackers are freshman Eric Smith and Hill, with the outside linebackers senior Jayden Rhodes and junior Will Chipman.
Carr will be at defensive back, with Millender at safety and senior Ethan Shirley at cornerback.
Senior Luis Ramirez will handle kicking duties.
“We’re still young,” Strunk said. “We got a bunch of kids who are juniors who have been starting since they were freshmen.”
Strunk has had to replace two of his assistant coaches, with the retirement of Chuck Syverson and the departure of Bill McCullough for North Florida Christian.
Backing up Strunk is Eddie Money as defensive coordinator, Chris Knight coaching the defensive line. Matt Duggar, the coach who works with assistant Kieran Williams with the middle school team, oversees the offensive line, while Willie “Suge” McNair is working with the linebackers and Jordan McNair with the wide receivers.
“On Friday, I’m wanting to see where we are, that's the biggest thing,” said Strunk. “We got several kids who play both ways, and this gives us an opportunity to see where we are and what we have to do.”
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