By Kyle LoJacono
District champion, 9-1 record and playoff berth.
All three describe the Carrollwood Day School (CDS) football team, and all three statements are firsts for the sixth-year program, including wins in a season.
The Patriots began playing football as a six-man squad in 2006, a year where they went 0-10. Lane McLaughlin took over the program the next year and guided the squad to the Florida Christian Association of Private and Parochial Schools (FCAPPS) state title.
CDS joined the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) and moved up to 11-man football in 2008.
The Patriots stayed as an independent program until last season when they were placed in Class 2A-District 5, a league they are the champion of.
“It’s been a building process,” McLaughlin said. “I can still remember those first practices when we were six-man. It was truly starting from the bottom up.”
McLaughlin said there have been many lessons learned along the way.
“One of the biggest things was learning how to play in a district,” McLaughlin said. “Last year we thought we could win the district, but we lost a couple games by a couple points because we just weren’t ready for that intensity, and when I say that I mean the players and the coaches didn’t know what to expect. It prepared us for this year.”
The Patriots did have one slip-up, losing to district rival Admiral Farragut 36-29 in Week 5.
“After that loss I told the players we had to win out to make the playoffs,” McLaughlin said. “To their credit, they rose to the challenge and did win the rest of our games.”
CDS has been led by its explosive offense. The Patriots have scored 41.3 points per game this season.
The ground game has accounted for 257.2 of CDS’ 420.2 yards per contest, thanks in large part to senior running back Robert Davis.
The University of Cincinnati commit has 1,875 yards and 24 touchdowns. Davis is also just 91 yards away from becoming Hillsborough County’s all-time rushing leader.
The difference in CDS’ offense this year has been a more potent passing game with the addition of Robinson transfer Vidal Woodruff. The senior has completed 79 of his 122 passes for 1,627 yards and 23 touchdowns to seven interceptions.
Woodruff’s favorite target has been senior Andy Embody, who has 37 catches for 763 yards and 15 touchdowns. Fellow senior Nate Lewis has added 19 grabs for 469 yards and four scores.
Another big change for the Patriots is the defense’s development.
CDS allowed 27.2 points per game last year, 10 more than the current squad.
Junior linebacker Dominic Cuono has helped lead the defense’s ascension with his 104 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Also keying the defense is Embody with his five interceptions and 43 tackles.
The Patriots play Moore Haven in the 2A regional semifinals Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. The game is at Alonso because CDS does not have lights at its field and Moore Haven couldn’t arrive before sunset.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker