By Zack Peterson
Heading into its fourth season as an 11-man football team, Carrollwood Day School is making the switch from an independent program into an official Florid High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) district.
The new district will include eight district games, according to coach Lane McLaughlin, “so there’s never a week off.”
For three years now, CDS has been independent, meaning it was a part of the FHSAA but never officially part of a district.
“We could always play anyone we wanted to,” said McLaughlin, “but we weren’t eligible for state playoffs.”
The Patriots were a part of the Sunshine Conference. However, with the growth of the team, and the notable success that followed, the option of remaining in the conference was no longer feasible.
“It got to the point where no one would play us,” McLaughlin explained. “We’ve outgrown the independent status and we want to have something to play for. … These kids would’ve killed me if we didn’t join a district this year.”
CDS won the Florida Christian Association of Private and Parochial Schools (FCAPPS) six-man state football championship in 2007, the second year for the program.
The Patriots moved up to 11-man football in 2008, where they posted a 4-7 record, but improved to 9-2 and 8-2 in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The Patriots are a part of Class 2A-District 5 along with Admiral Farragut, Indian Rocks Christian, Keswick Christian, Bradenton Christian, Calvary Christian, Cambridge, Canterbury and Northside Christian.
On the whole, the entire team appears collected and ready for the new changes that come with playing within a district.
“We’ve always been moving up since we really started as a team,” said senior Dillon Floyd, a wide receiver who has been playing for the Patriots since eighth grade. “This year should be no different. We step up and there’s more expectations.”
This very attitude, as well as new depth and speed to the lineup, is what McLaughlin predicts will help the team excel in the new district.
“We’ve got a great attitude,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got a good bit of speed, and, finally this year we don’t have a lot of players, but we have a lot of depth. … I wouldn’t have a problem with most everybody on our team in a starting position.”
Floyd led the squad last year with 44 catches for 738 yards and six receiving touchdowns. He was also one of the Patriots’ top defensive backs, posting a team-high six interceptions and was tied for the lead with six passes defensed.
The squad will be led under center by senior Deuce Gruden. In his first year as Carrollwood Day School’s quarterback in 2010, Gruden completed 86 passes for 1,584 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also posted 287 rushing yards for another five scores.
Last year’s leading rusher was Robert Davis. The junior had 1,523 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in 2010.
Floyd said the strength of the team lies in the bonds they have created during the last few years as an independent program.
“A lot of us have played on this team for a long time and we’ve got quite a few seniors this year with a lot of experience,” Floyd said. “We’re all pretty excited.”
The Patriots will travel to Keswick Christian on Friday, Sept. 9 for their first ever district contest.
—All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches.