Sunlake football looks to stay among area elite
By Kyle LoJacono
During its first five seasons, Sunlake football has been hunting to establish itself,
but things are very different this spring.
The Seahawks went 10-2 last year, reached the playoffs for the first time and won a
always worked hard, but we know we have to work harder because teams are
chasing us,” said junior Eddie Burgos. “We just have to prepare like never
before, and if we do that we’ll be unstoppable.”
Bill Browning, the only coach in program history, the trip to the postseason
was a big achievement, but he said it was the first step in building Sunlake
into a consistent winner.
was an exciting year,” Browning said. “The players worked hard to get there. Some
of them were three-year starters. Everything paid off in the end, and hopefully
we’ll be able to continue to build off the tradition that we’ve set.”
said he has seen new confidence this spring with the program’s new standards.
they’re trying to live up to high expectations,” Browning said. “The bar has
been set a little bit. We’re still looking for players and a lot of puzzle
pieces to put together.”
of those openings in the Seahawks’ puzzle come after graduating several key
playmakers. They lost their top four rushers: Jerome Samuels (536 yards, six
scores), Rashaud Daniels (478 yards, four scores), Mike Lopez (300 yards, four
scores) and Cameron Stoltz (191 yards, four scores).
Sunlake also loses its most prolific receiver in Jamal Jones, who caught 25 passes for
557 yards and a program record 12 touchdowns.
“We have some playmakers that are very capable; they’re just a little bit more
untested than last year,” Browning said. “Eddie (Burgos) is the one with the
most experience, and we’ve got Ricardo Williams, Brogan Ronske and a couple
other guys who are working hard to get better.”
a 5-foot-11, 180-pound wide receiver/cornerback, had 22 catches for 369 yards
and five touchdowns, more than any other returner. He also recorded 37 tackles,
10 passes defensed and one interception.
really going to miss guys like Rashaud and Jamal,” Burgos said. “We just have
to have people step up. We’ve got to get it done. We’ve got potential. We just
have to have them take it up to a varsity level. Once we get to that we should
be good. I feel like we’re not going to miss a beat on offense.”
The signal caller is also different. Stoltz started every game at quarterback last
season, where he racked up a program-record 1,735 passing yards and 28
touchdowns despite having never started a game under center on the varsity
The story is the same with 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior Josh Zifer, who saw time at
wide receiver last season but has yet to start at quarterback.
“(Stoltz) had great intensity,” said Zifer, who went 3-of-6 passing for 58 yards last
year. “He was never scared, did what he could do and the team helped him out.
That’s what it’s about. It’s a team sport.”
Stoltz replaced Jacob Jackson, who two years ago led the Seahawks to their first
winning season and set a program record with 2,316 total yards and 30
touchdowns combined passing and rushing. Zifer said he doesn’t see it as
pressure trying to be the program’s next signal caller.
just excited to get the chance to play quarterback here,” Zifer said. “We’ve
had good quarterbacks from Jacob Jackson and Cameron Stoltz. I don’t have to do
everything because we have really good players. I just have to do my job like
also points out they have quarterback options.
is running first team right now, and Esteban Lewallen is also doing really well
coming from the junior varsity team,” Browning said. “They’re both learning a
lot and we’re making progress.”
big changes come on the offensive line, which graduated three starters. One of
the returners is 6-foot, 280-pound junior center Aaron Protch.
line has been working together a lot better than I thought,” Protch said. “I
thought it would be a mess coming in after losing three starters, but things
are really clicking. … We’re all a lot stronger too. We’re all benching more
than 300 pounds.”
has confidence in the front five.
starts with the line, and I think they’re going to take us all the way,” Zifer
of the defense’s biggest losses is linebacker Nick Morrison, who led the squad
with 146 tackles while adding five sacks and five fumble recoveries as a
senior. He was named the Sunshine Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the
Year for his efforts in 2011.
of those looking to help replace Morrison’s production is junior linebacker Ray
Busbee, who had 97 tackles last year, more than any other returner.
Nick is a tough thing to do,” Busbee said. “He’s a great player and I learned a
lot from him. I do think we have the enough talent to keep the same intensity
will host Wiregrass Ranch and Wesley Chapel in their spring jamboree May 25 at
as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches