To preview the 2014 high school football season, The Tribune is counting down the top 10 teams in Hillsborough County. The preseason rankings were voted on by staff writers Scott Purks and Nick Williams, high school sports editor Doug Jacobs and correspondent Jarrett Guthrie.
TAMPA — A year after taking over Jesuit High’s football program, coach Matt Thompson said he is “comfortable” and “confident” and “ready to have a great (second) year.”
“First of all, the players and I know each other, and they know what I expect from them,” said Thompson, who moved to Jesuit after 18 years as an Armwood assistant. “I don’t have to gain their trust this year.”
As for returning starters, the Tigers, who went 8-4 in 2013, welcome back eight on offense and four on defense.
Along the offensive line, arguably the Tigers’ strongest overall area, senior class president Clark Bulleit leads a group that isn’t huge but is strong, quick, athletic and smart.
“All of these guys are intelligent and that helps us run multiple (offensive sets and plays),” Thompson said. “Our kids pick up things pretty quickly.”
Case in point is returning senior quarterback Trent Wessel, who stepped in last season when starter Vincent Testaverde was sidelined after appendectomy surgery. Wessel led the Tigers to a 13-9 victory over rival Tampa Catholic and a 29-21 victory against Auburndale in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, Thompson said the Tigers will mix the run and the pass, often with more emphasis on the run, especially with the return of senior back Kevin Newman, a definite possibility to rush for more than 1,000 yards.
Defensively, Jesuit should be stout, particularly at linebacker with James Vrionis, Nick Mosco and Parker Looney, who run sub 4.8-second 40s. Mosco, a sophomore, has the potential to finish his high school career as one of the Tigers’ all-time greats. As a freshman last year, Mosco (5-foot-11, 225 pounds) led the team in tackles with 107, but he didn’t get full playing time until the fourth game.
Partly because of the strong linebacking corps and the fact he has some big defensive tackles — namely Marc Jimenez (6-3, 302) and Peter Osimen (6-0, 290) — Thompson is going with a 4-3 defensive front.
The overall plan, Thompson said, is to win every game, which is possible but will be difficult because the Tigers have several tough teams on the schedule, including Clearwater Central Catholic, Hardee, Largo, Newsome, Trinity Catholic and Tampa Catholic.
Friday, Aug. 22, at Palm Harbor University
Friday, Aug. 29, vs. Hardee