STADIUM: Spartan Stadium, 8538 Eagle Palm Drive, Riverview CLASS-DISTRICT: 5A-9 ( with Jesuit, Middleton) COACH: Dale Caparaso (46-46, 10th season overall; 26-25, sixth season at Spoto) LAST SEASON: 3-7
Defense a key for Spartans
Coach Dale Caparaso said the defensive unit is the best he’s seen at Spoto. For the first time, Caparaso, in his sixth year, will have a ton of size up front to lead the way. Averaging around 265 pounds, the line will be big with senior Marquis Harris (6-foot-6, 245 pounds) providing height and wingspan, and guys like Todd Simms will add speed and quickness to the line as well.
However, the defensive strength doesn’t end there as the linebackers, led by senior Traverrian “Kell” Williams returns for his third season as a starter for the Spartans. Williams, a 6-foot-1, 225-pounder, transitioned from lineman to middle linebacker last season and had 76 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 2012.
“Kell is a three-year starter for us,” Caparaso said. “He’ll do everything we need, starting midway through his sophomore year he has had something like 18 sacks for us.”
Rafael Morales returns, bringing 91 tackles and five sacks from last season.
Cornerback Willie Marshall, who had 25 tackles last season and James Bethea, an athlete who will be the Spartans’ everyman this season, will also have big roles in the secondary.
While the defensive front has great size, the offensive line imposing as well. Caparaso said the group is making big leaps, as his staff for the first time has a full-time quality offensive line coach in Gardner Box (formerly of Brandon and Plant City High Schools). Box has a lot to work with as the group averages 6-foot-2, 278 pounds. Ed Heraldo, who plays guard and is on the defensive line, will lead this group.
Shake off a tough year
Last season, the Spartans were hoping to pin their hopes to the talented skills of Eric Moate, but five plays into the season a leg injury sidelined Moate for most of the season and a slew of youngsters were thrust into playing time. The team started eight sophomores and one freshman. It was a tough blow for a talented team that ended up 3-7, however Moate’s injury did give the team’s young players a lot of experience heading into this year.
One of those gaining experience was James Bethea. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior will play defensive back, wide receiver, running back and be a return specialist. Caparaso said he is hoping the “big-time hitter” can provide the versatility his team needs.
Quarterback is young
Last season, Kevin Hobbly (now a junior) made a run for the starting job at quarterback. Caparaso said he felt Hobbly still had some growing to do. However, Hobbly did see some playing time and passed for 206 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. During the spring and in preseason workouts, his coaches feel he is more than ready to step up. Caparaso said Hobbly is a good runner, with a quality arm. He will have weapons in wide receivers like returning starters Marc McCoy (12 catches, 227 yards last year), and Simms (who transferred from Middleton).
A lot expected of newcomers
Caparaso said he has a few guys who could make an impact right away. Mike Densen, a 6-foot-1, 330-pound guard, worked hard in the offseason to get his grades up to join the team as a junior. Caparaso said Densen “is one of the most physical players I have coached in 33 years.”
Receiver Patrick James has speed and good hands providing another weapon for Hobbly to choose from