STADIUM: James “Big Jim” Williams Stadium, 1701 North Blvd., Tampa CLASS-DISTRICT: 6A-8 (with Armwood, Chamberlain, Hillsborough, Jefferson, King, Leto, Lennard, and Robinson) COACH: Darryl Gordon (3-7, second season) LAST SEASON: 3-7
Yellow Jackets’ specialty: Physicality
Whether a team wins or loses against Blake, it might want to pack some extra ice bags for after the game. On defense, Blake will be led by junior middle linebacker/fullback Julian Jackson. According to head coach Darryl Gordon, you do not want to be tackled by Jackson.
“He is very physical and has great knowledge of the position,” Gordon said. “He is a calm guy off the field, but he is like Ray Lewis when he is on it.
“When he is pursuing the football, the impact he brings is incredible. His physicality rubs off on other players (on our team).”
Helping Jackson out on defense will be 6-foot-4, 250-pound sophomore defensive end Shavar Manuel. As a freshman on varsity, Manuel had 10 sacks and averaged almost five tackles a game.
“(Manuel) is very aggressive coming off the end,” Gordon said.
Gordon also remembers his reaction when Manuel came out for his team.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is a big kid.’ Seems like he was born to (play football),” Gordon said.
Senior center Josh Vizcanio will help anchor the Blake offense that averaged 121 yards rushing per game last season. As a captain, Gordon feels that he has an extra assistant coach on the field to help his offense out.
“He makes the offensive line calls for the other guys. He’s like a teacher/coach for the other guys on the field,” Gordon said.
Fill the void
Blake lost six members of its starting defense, including five of its top seven tacklers as well as its two starting safeties from last year. Gordon will be looking for other players to step up and fill the void that was left by the graduations.
“They compete. The main goal is win and compete,” Gordon said. “They have bought into that.”
Blake will also be looking to plug a big hole on offense. Its leading rusher and receiver from last season, DeAndre James, graduated. Gordon thinks the key for his offense this year will be ball security. Blake had 18 turnovers last year, and Gordon believes some of the close losses Blake suffered last season can turn into wins if it can protect the ball.
“We can’t turn the ball over. Work on that, and those losses will turn into wins,” Gordon said.
Blake moved up one classification this season and now plays in the “District of Death (Class 6A-8) along with Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Robinson, Chamberlain, King, Leto and Lennard.
The bad news is playing the likes of Armwood, Hillsborough, Jefferson and Robinson will be a tough task for Blake considering those teams were a combined 36-12. Also, the Yellow Jackets’ last three games are against Hillsborough, Robinson and Jefferson.
The good news for the Yellow Jackets is they beat Leto and Lennard last year and those teams are back on the schedule.