STADIUM: Gator Stadium, 20325 Gator Lane, Land O’ Lakes CLASS-DISTRICT: 6A-6 (with Fivay, Mitchell, Springstead, and Sunlake) COACH: Brian Wachtel (11-9, third season) LAST SEASON: 4-6
Salmon a defensive force for Gators
Shaheed Salmon, Sr., LB/DE
With tremendous quickness for someone who is 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Salmon is one of the top pass rushers in Pasco County.
He will spend most of his time rushing off the edge.
“My favorite situation is third-and-long, when we’re blitzing,” Salmon said, “and I get to hit the quarterback on his blind side and just take his head off.” But Salmon also has the ability to drop into coverage, as well as stop the run. There’s no end to how many ways he can impact a game on defense.
Colin Irwin, Sr., linebacker
Having drawn most of his motivation throughout his prep career from feeling like the underdog, Irwin spent the offseason getting stronger after posting 94 tackles as a junior. “I’ve gotten more physical and my reads have gotten better,” Irwin said. “And overall, I think we are the best group of linebackers in the county.” His goal this season is to cross the 100-tackle mark, like his teammate, fellow senior Darius Wells, did a year ago.
Land O’ Lakes lost seven starters from last year, so it has a lot of experience returning. “It is important as a program that we have leaders on both sides of the football,” coach Brian Wachtel said. “We have leaders right now in different segments of the game, depending on what we’re doing.” Though the offense is comprised mostly of juniors, such as quarterback James Pensyl, running back Larenz Scroggins and receiver Kamal Wells, those players spent most of, if not all, the 2012 season in starting roles.
Despite all the Gators returning starters, very few of those come from the line. They have just three offensive linemen (Joe Harrison, Noah Hengoed and Josh Gaulden) who were on the roster last season, so developing an entirely new offensive line has been a priority in preseason practices. “They’re still learning right now, but I think they’re coming along pretty well,” Salmon said. “They’re busting their butts and going hard after everything, so that should turn out for the better.” Harrison, Hengoed and Gaulden will likely contribute on both sides of the ball.
Land O’ Lakes quite simply has to stop the run better than they did last year in order to make a playoff run. Opponents averaged 232.7 rushing yards per game against the Gators in 2012, including two 300-yard games and one 400-yard game.
“The way I look at it is, if they throw we’re going to stop it, and if they run we’re going to stop that too,” said senior Cedrick Lowe, who will be playing strong safety after losing weight and moving from nose guard last year.