TAMPA — Six seconds. It’s a relatively short increment of time, but for Berkeley Prep quarterback Brad Mayes and his teammates, it’s a mantra they have heard over and over.
Mainly because it’s constant “six seconds” reminders from Buccaneers head coach Dominick Ciao, a reference to the three district losses the team suffered last season by a combined 12 points, each coming in the waning seconds against Lakeland Christian, Fort Meade and Tampa Catholic.
“Coach Ciao goes by and talks about ‘six seconds’ and how all those games came down to about six seconds,” Mayes said. “Pretty much it has been our motto this entire offseason and we are trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Those losses — and his coach’s reminders — have Mayes motivated to make a big leap from a junior season during which he posted 1,052 yards passing, 124 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing).
“Last year we were a great football team,” Mayes said. “We’re going to do the same thing we did, except we are all motivated to finish out games.”
For Ciao, that leadership is invaluable as he moves forward with an offense that is looking to turn near misses from a season ago into the program’s first playoff run since 2011.
“Brad will be a great leader on and off the field,” Ciao said. “We feel like he’s something special in that position and this season he’s going to show it leading the offense.”
Quarterback Brad Mayes won’t be alone as he tries to get the Buccaneers on the scoreboard this season. Junior Jacob Mathis gives Mayes a big target as the 6-foot-5, 220-pound receiver is drawing looks from colleges including Miami, Florida and South Florida. Mathis was the Bucs’ leading receiver last season with 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Versatility is key for the offense, according to coach Dominick Ciao, who will look to Gordon Stetson, Anthony Pellegrino and Addison Grams to play roles as running backs and in the passing game.
The offense will be anchored by a strong line, Ciao said. The unit will be led by senior tackle Aidan O’Carroll (6-7, 280), senior center Andrew Basham and senior Bryce Benjamin, who can play tackle and guard.
The Buccaneers have a number of key returners, including an experienced secondary led by cornerback Ben Novella. Linebacker Joe Schiano is the leading returner in tackles with 80, and juniors Bo Peek and John Turkel return to anchor the defensive line.
Berkeley Prep starts its season against Middleton, takes on defending Class 2A state finalist Lakeland Victory Christian in Week 2 and 2013 Class 5A playoff team Sarasota Booker before getting into its tough district schedule. Ciao said playing the higher-classification teams will be a good test before trying to exorcise some of those demons from last year’s 2-3 district schedule.
“We have to find a way to finish. Those were some tough situations last year and I think the team learned a lot from them,” Ciao said. “Hopefully we’ll be in those situations again and make the big play.”
♦ About The Buccaneers
Stadium: Newman Stadium, 4811 Kelly Rd., Tampa
Class-District: 3A-4 (with Fort Meade, Frostproof, Lakeland Christian and Tampa Catholic)
Coach: Dominick Ciao (182-84, 25th season overall; 50-24, eighth season at Berkeley Prep
Last season: 5-4
Aug. 29: at Middleton
Sept. 5: Lakeland Victory Christian
Sept. 12: Sarasota Booker
Sept. 19: at Lakeland Christian
Sept. 26: Spring Hill Springstead
Oct. 2: Fort Meade
Oct. 17: at Tampa Catholic
Oct. 24: Montverde
Oct. 31: Frostproof
Nov. 7: at Brandon