STADIUM: Cowboy Stadium, 16200 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa CLASS-DISTRICT: 7A-7 (with Freedom, Sickles, Steinbrenner, Tampa Bay Tech, and Wiregrass Ranch) COACH: Jason Stokes (33-22, fifth season overall; 17-7, third season at Gaither) LAST SEASON: 8-3
Versatile senior Golden for Cowboys
Jimmy Golden literally does it all for the Cowboys.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior plays tight end, linebacker, running back, special teams and on both the offensive and defensive lines. Gaither coach Jason Stokes said Golden's mentality to do whatever is needed is exactly what they are encouraging.
“Jimmy is just the epitome of flexibility,” Stokes said. “He loves being a football player. He's definitely the lynchpin of what we're trying to build here.”
Golden said it wasn't easy to put his ego aside at first.
“Playing all over started sophomore year when I wasn't playing much, and they needed help on the O-line, so I just played that,” Golden said. “As I matured I became less selfish about it, and now I don't care at all where I play as long as it helps the team.”
Alex McGough is entering his third year as Gaither's starting quarterback, but he does have an entirely new position.
The senior is now the Cowboys' leader and has taken his new role to heart.
“He's been huge for us every year, and he's now taken on that leadership role,” Stokes said. “He's really teaching while he's out there, and he's like an extension of myself, like another coach, out there.”
The Cowboys were at one of their lowest points when they finished 1-9 and 3-7 in 2010 and 2011.
Stokes took over the program the following year and has guided Gaither to a 17-7 record and consecutive playoff berths, and that is paying dividends in the form of 110 kids in the program this season.
“We've built an expectation to win,” McGough said. “People thought the first year it was lucky. Last year we proved it wasn't lucky, and if we do it again then it's like building a dynasty.”
The Cowboys graduated its top four running backs from last season who racked up 2,014 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns.
“We're having some young kids step up, some guys switch from defense and we had a kid named Yhaquille Grant come over from Sickles,” Stokes said. “It's going to be running back by committee. They know there's competition, but at the same time they're wanting each other to do well to fill that void.”
Graduation was equally damaging to the defensive line, which lost three starters.
“We shifted the defense, so we're not asking those ends to explode up the field like last year,” Stokes said. “We want them to control their gap, do your job and with our good linebacking crew we can fly around and do some good things. If we're sound with that secondary we'll get things done.”