STADIUM: Crusaders Stadium, 4630 N. Rome Ave., Tampa CLASS-DISTRICT: 3A-4 (with Berkeley Prep, Bishop McLaughlin, Fort Meade, Frostproof, and Lakeland Christian) COACH: Mike Gregory (first season) LAST SEASON: 8-4
Martinez anchors talented Crusader OL
By himself, left tackle Corey Martinez makes Tampa Catholic’s offensive line respectable.
That’s because Martinez, who has committed to Florida State, is not only big, strong and quick, but he’s smart and works extra hard.
He’s so good, he can sometimes manhandle two defenders at once.
Two things, perhaps, stand out above all others to teammates: TC quarterback Kyle Ploucher doesn’t have to worry about getting blindsided and Martinez’s mere presence makes everybody around him better.
“(Martinez) doesn’t have to say much to get his teammates motivated,” TC coach Mike Gregory said. “He makes an immediate impact because of his size and then it goes to another level because of his confidence and the way he carries himself.”
Three seniors join Martinez on the front — center David Gonzalez, left guard Sonel Ramponeau and right tackle Tyler Meany — all have some O-line reps, but have mostly played other positions
Kyle Ploucher, who completed 93 of 186 passes for 1,306 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, returns bigger, stronger and more experienced.
“He is making better decisions,” Gregory said. “He has grown to be a strong leader.”
This arguably is the Crusaders’ strongest overall area with Kenny Bryant (179 carries, 707 yards in 2012) and T.J. Harrell (75 carries, 616 yards) returning. Add in burly fullback Justin Vertino and shifty Ben Reed and the Crusaders have plenty of depth and diversity to throw off opposing defenses.
Another area stocked with talent. Harrell, Trey Watson, Cody Endris, Denny Weldon, Jacob Rios and Trevon Townsend make a formidable six-man rotation in the Crusaders’ 3-4 scheme.
Harrell will likely play several positions in the linebacking scheme before the season ends.
“(Harrell) can do so many different things so well that we have to use him in different ways,” Gregory said.
Led by Justin Motlow and Isiah Osby, the wide receivers have potential, but Gregory is looking for them to step up a little more. If they do, the receiving corp could turn out to be something special.
The hope is that sophomore defensive end Malik Barrow catches fire, which is a distinct possibility. He is young, but he could turn into a terror.
The concern is that the other defensive linemen — including Ramponeau,Vertino and Meany and T.J. Koontz — are all playing other positions as well.