By Jeff Odom
Carrollwood Day School football coach Lane McLaughlin has fielded questions all spring regarding his team’s ability to rebound after losing nine key seniors to graduation.
McLaughlin got his answer as the Patriots won their first district title and came within one win of a state final four appearance last season, erasing all doubt with a dominating 41-7 win at Bishop McLaughlin in the school’s spring jamboree May 18.
“It’s about rebuilding a program, and when you lose guys, young guys got to step up, and they stepped up tonight,” McLaughlin said. “ … We’ve got a lot of weapons; we’ve just got to work on our passing game a little bit.”
CDS running back Elias Early picked up his squad’s running game right where it left off last year, racking up 170 yards on 12 carries against the Hurricanes’ defense.
The sophomore said he knows replacing former Patriots halfback Robert Davis, who finished his high school career as Hillsborough County’s all-time rushing leader, will be tough, but knows the guidance he received from Davis was a gift.
“I think I did all right,” Early said with a smile. “The Lord blessed me with my abilities and everything, and watching Robert Davis for two years straight, he helped me a lot with everything, and he was my mentor.”
McLaughlin said he always saw that ability in Early.
“He’s getting better; I mean, he’s a fast kid,” McLaughlin said. “He’s a good player.”
CDS wasted little time getting started in the first quarter.
Max Frankel set the tone of the night for his team seven minutes in on defense by forcing Bishop McLaughlin quarterback R.J. Perciavalle to scramble out of the pocket and fumble. Frankel scooped up the ball and returned it 49 yards to the 1-yard-line, before calling his own number on the ensuing offensive possession and pounding it in for a touchdown.
The Patriots began to pull away in the second quarter as freshman quarterback Spencer Peek ran a sneak 15 yards for another score. Frankel then followed up with a 15-yard run for his second touchdown to make it 21-0.
McLaughlin said he was impressed with the way Peek ran the offense and added he will be excited to see what senior Freedom-transfer Taylor King can do when he is ruled eligible in the fall.
“Spencer did a pretty good job managing the game at quarterback as a (freshman) and you know, we’ve got our senior (King) coming in next year, but Spencer did a good job,” McLaughlin said.
The Hurricanes would finally get on the board with less than two minutes to play in the first half as Perciavalle ran it in from four yards out for a touchdown, but that’s as close as the score would get.
Perciavalle finished 8-for-13 passing and added 90 yards rushing.
“There’s no doubt you can tell he’s matured as a quarterback going into his senior year,” Bishop McLaughlin coach Derrick Alexander said. “It’s going to be our job to protect him, and also the other weapons out there, they have to be able to produce because we had some plays during the course of that ballgame where if we could have hooked up on a couple of deep balls, the score would have been a little bit different.”
The Patriots added three more scores in the second half as Peek hit Domenic Cuono for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 28-7.
Cuono scored again on a 37-yard breakaway and freshman Dylan Rudolph followed suit with a 22-yard run of his own to seal the win for CDS.
Alexander said his team has a lot to work on this summer to prepare for its first season in Class 3A-District 4, where it will face the likes of Berkley Prep and Tampa Catholic among others.
“We want to get stronger and in better shape and just because we don’t have the big numbers, our guys have to be in maximum shape, because they’re playing on both sides of the ball,” Alexander said. “I think if we become a stronger and better in-shape football team, we’ll be able to compete with those teams and give ourselves a chance to win at the end of the ballgame. That’s all you can ask.”
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