By Kyle LoJacono
Carrollwood Day School (CDS) coach Lane McLaughlin admitted his team was surprised last season.
It was the Patriots’ first year in a district, making them eligible for the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs. The process was like nothing they’d been a part of before.
“I don’t think they knew what to expect Game 1,” said McLaughlin, who is entering his sixth season. “It was all new to them and to us as coaches.”
Key injuries added to the obstacles, including losing safety Nate Lewis to multiple torn knee ligaments suffered in Week 5 against Admiral Farragut.
“Nate is our best tackler,” McLaughlin said. “We’re not a really good tackling team, so losing him really hurt. … I was proud of our effort. We lost four games, but three were on the last play of the game and one was by eight points.”
Lewis was cleared to play two months ago. His return bolsters the defense while also allowing Robert Davis to focus on playing offense.
Davis, a running back/defensive back, had 1,832 yards on 138 carries with 25 touchdowns last season. He sits 1,966 yards from breaking the Hillsborough County career rushing record.
Davis worked on his speed this offseason and was recently clocked at 4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but he is more excited about the offensive line in front of him than his own quickness.
“That’s going to be our biggest key this year is our line,” Davis said. “They’re getting bigger and stronger every day. They’re in the weight room all day this summer, and when I come out in the afternoon they’re already there flipping tires.”
Another weapon for CDS is wide receiver Andy Embody (554 yards, seven touchdowns) and running back Elias Earley (132 yards, two touchdowns), who will likely miss the first game after breaking his collarbone during a summer 7-on-7 tournament.
“Andy might be the best player in our district,” McLaughlin said. “He caught three touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass and returned an interception for a touchdown in the spring game. We’re also excited to have Elias Earley back.”
The biggest question comes at quarterback. The Patriots lost two-year starter Deuce Gruden to graduation. The former signal caller, who became the first player in program history to sign with a college when he inked with Lafayette, completed 74-of-144 passes for 1,466 yards and 17 touchdowns last season while adding 507 yards on 105 carries and four scores.
Dominiq Sicardo was CDS’ quarterback in the spring game, but Robinson transfer Vidal Woodruf has taken the majority of reps during the summer 7-on-7 season and early fall practices.
McLaughlin predicts the 2012 squad will be the program’s best.
“Our first goal is to win the first game,” McLaughlin said. “Our second goal is to get into the playoffs. Our main goal is to win the district.”
Homes games start at 4 p.m., away contests at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Home games played at 1515 West Bearss Ave., Lake Magdalene.
Kickoff classic Aug. 24 vs. Orlando Christian Prep
Aug. 31 vs. North Port Imagine School
Sept. 7 vs. Keswick Christian*
Sept. 14 at Northside Christian*
Sept. 21 at Shorecrest Prep
Sept. 28 at Admiral Farragut*
Oct. 5 vs. Canterbury*
Oct. 12** at Bradenton Christian*
Oct. 19 vs. Cambridge Christian*
Oct. 26 vs. Indian Rocks Christian *
Nov. 2 at Calvary Christian*
Nov. 9 Bye
*Denotes district contest
**Kickoff at 7 p.m.
2011 Patriots (6-4)
Father Lopez Catholic W 57-12
Keswick Christian L 30-27
Northside Christian W 61-14
Shorecrest Prep W 47-10
Admiral Farragut L 49-41
Canterbury L 26-20
Bradenton Christian W 33-17
Cambridge Christian W 54-35
Indian Rocks Christian L 58-55
Calvary Christian W 28-21
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