Tchecoy Blount building family atmosphere
By Kyle LoJacono
Freedom High set a school record with seven wins last season, but the Patriots will need to adjust to a new coaching staff if they want to return to the playoffs in 2010.
James Harrell coached Freedom last year after winning two state championships with Plant High as a defensive coordinator. The Patriots went 7-3 and were the Class 5A, District 7 runner-up in 2009, which was just the second playoff appearance in the school’s eight-year history.
Harrell left to take the same position at Jesuit High, but his assistant defensive coordinator Tchecoy Blount stayed to lead the program and plans on getting similar results with a different style.
“We’re looking to change the whole mindset of the team,” Blount said. “We want a heavy emphasis on pride in the team and community. The workouts have been the best since I’ve been here at the school and we’re anxious to get the season going.”
Blount, 31, has been at the school for four years and is currently Freedom’s special diploma instructor. He grew up in St. Petersburg and was a defensive end at the University of South Florida (USF).
Blount is the third coach in Freedom history and he intends on staying at the school for many years.
“I want to be here at Freedom,” Blount said. “I plan on building the football program up and I’ve got some big goals for us. I want to bring us our first district title and then our first state championship.”
His time as an assistant helped Blount develop relationships with the players.
“He’s been here every year and that makes it easy for us,” said senior wide receiver Dustin Rauh. “That’s really good for the younger guys is knowing he’ll be here for a long time.”
Rauh had nine catches for 172 yards and one touchdown while adding another score as a rusher. He is one of the team captains this season, along with senior linebacker Keith Lewis, senior linebacker Josh Tanner and senior wide receiver and defensive back Robert Lohnes.
“Really everything we’ve been doing is better,” Tanner said. “We’re taking things more seriously now and there seems to be a better plan.”
Part of that plan has been to offer morning and afternoon workouts during the summer in case players cannot make one of the times. Blount said it also gives them no excuse for missing practice.
“I’ve liked what coach has done this year,” Lohnes said. “We’ve done more in the weight room and with agility. Coach Harrell had been there before winning two titles and had the system down, but I think the plan is better now.”
Lewis was recently out of town to visit with colleges interested in signing him, including Florida State University, Auburn University and the University of Tennessee. Blount said Lewis has about 25 scholarship offers.
Along with a new mentality, Blount has changed up the schemes. Last year the Patriots ran a spread offense and rarely lined up in traditional running formations. Blount said he plans on using the spread while mixing more traditional running plays.
Blount has also switched the defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3, or four linemen and three linebackers like he played in at USF.
Also new to Freedom is Dominic Marino, who played quarterback at Leto High last year, but has since moved to the area. Marino ran the spread last season and Blount said he has separated himself as the front runner to start for the Patriots.
“It’s easy for me to step in because I know most of the plays,” Marino said. “There are some new plays, but knowing the system has helped me and the team gel. We are all on the same page, especially the wide receivers. I don’t have to tell them what to run. They just know what I’m thinking.”
Marino, senior, was Leto’s starting quarterback last year and had 58 completions for 706 yards and three touchdowns.
In last year’s version of the spread Lohnes had a team-high 32 catches for 570 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 45 tackles while leading the Patriots with four interceptions and 10 passes defensed.
Blount has done several things to bring the Patriots together. He has them log their workout hours by themselves while making it clear to them that lying is like lying to all the other players.
The team also participated in a 7-on-7 event with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. Blount said this helped the new players meet the Patriots veterans. He is also planning cleanups along the roads by the school so the players take ownership in their community.
“We want to win, but we want to have kids who love this area and each other,” Blount said. “They need to trust each other.”