STADIUM: Seahawks Stadium, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., Land O’ Lakes CLASS-DISTRICT: 6A-6 (with Fivay, Land O’ Lakes, Mitchell, at Springstead) COACH: Bill Browning (31-31, seventh season) LAST SEASON: 8-2
Wood leads Hawks’ defense
Ben Wood, Sr., linebacker/fullback
Ten months after suffering a torn ACL, Wood is back to full strength and looking to tear opposing offenses apart.
Wood spent the offseason rehabbing and watching game-tape to improve his footwork when he wasn’t able to actually practice it. “With an injury, it makes you realize all the negative things about yourself,” Wood said. “You go back and you analyze how you got hurt, and you train how to perfect those.”
Wood had 86 tackles in eight games last year, plus added some effective blocking at tight end. It’s not clear how much coach Bill Browning plans to use Wood on offense in 2013, but he could end up being a dangerous two-way player if he’s able to handle the workload.
Joe Jean-Baptiste, Sr., receiver/defensive back
It is Jean-Baptiste’s turn to become Sunlake’s marquee big-play target after Eddie Burgos graduated. The senior has grown four inches and now stands 6-foot-2, making him an intriguing college prospect. “I love playing both ways,” Jean-Baptiste said. “It takes out a lot of energy, but our conditioning gets me ready for it. When I’m in there, I’m definitely going to make a play.” Sunlake didn’t throw the ball much last season and may not again, but expect the Seahawks to find innovative ways to get the ball in Jean-Baptiste’s hands.
Depth No other squad in Pasco County boasts the kind of player turnout Sunlake generates this time of year. The Seahawks easily fill two practice fields with players and have a hard time getting all of them in games. But talent is there, as well. “That’s just part of the work ethic and endeavor that you try to stress,” Browning said. “You may not be starting, but you’re one play away from getting in.” They are particularly deep at linebacker and defensive back, where healthy competition is expected to yield a disciplined squad. The Seahawks are 27-5 in the past three seasons because they rarely are decimated by the loss of seniors from the previous season.
The passing game
Sunlake once boasted one of the most balanced offenses in Pasco County, but last year, only one player on the squad caught more than 10 passes and the quarterback, Josh Zifer, ran for 1,002 yards, throwing for just 491. The competition at quarterback is between senior Esteban LeWallen (last year’s varsity backup) and junior Dayton Feiden (last year’s junior varsity starter). “It’s neck-and-neck between those two,” Browning said.
Established running back
Browning is still unsure who will be the Seahawks’ primary rusher. Nathan Johnson, Jacob Guzman, Ricardo Williams and Wanya Lamar are vying for a job that should determine where the yards in Sunlake’s offense come from. “There’s some ability there – just a lot of inexperience,” Browning said. “ Of those, only Johnson is a true running back, while the others could play receiver, as well.