By Don Trello
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
The Steinbrenner football team rallied for a 22-21 win against Alonso and Sickles beat Gaither 22-14 in the Steinbrenner football jamboree May 23 to mark the end of spring practice.
“We had a couple of kids that grew up today,” Steinbrenner coach Andres Perez-Reinaldo said. “The kids work hard, and this was a great momentum boost.”
Steinbrenner running back Kezio Snelling scored three touchdowns in the second quarter, including an 81-yard kickoff return that pulled the Warriors to within 21-20 of Alonso with 33 seconds left to play in the game.
Shyheem Barthel ran for a two-point conversion following Snelling’s TD for the Steinbrenner win.
“I caught the ball, hit the hole and did what my coach told me to do,” said Snelling, who will be a junior next school year. “To be honest, it was a total team effort.”
Snelling also had an 80-yard kickoff return for Steinbrenner’s first touchdown, and scored on a 14-yard run.
“We put huge emphasis on our special teams, especially kickoff returns,” Perez-Reinaldo said.
Alonso’s Ish Witter rushed for 72 yards and one touchdown, and Ravens quarterback Chris Oladokun tossed touchdown passes of 20 yards each to Brandon Robinson and Marcus Mosley.
“Snelling came out as a freshman quarterback and was as goofy as they come,” Perez-Reinaldo said. “He’s dangerous in the open field, and he’s the scout team quarterback. We ask a lot of him.”
Steinbrenner graduates 27 seniors after this school year, including leading rusher and point scorer Kendall Pearcey from last season’s team that finished with a 5-5 record.
“We have a very raw group that has a long way to go, but they realize that,” Perez-Reinaldo said. “We hope it’s a team effort that allows us to pull through. Our goal is to create a team concept.”
Steinbrenner has quarterback Curtis Fitch and running back Jake Carroll among its returning players. Carroll did not play in the game because of a concussion.
“Obviously, we will miss Pearcey as a player, but I don’t think losing him will have a negative effect,” Fitch said. “Losing players steps everything up. I guess you could see it as pressure on my role as a leader, but my teammates have my back.”
Gaither coach Jason Stokes lost 23 seniors from last season’s team that clinched the first district title in five years, but the Cowboys return quarterback Alex McGough, who passed for 1,727 yards and 22 touchdowns.
“McGough’s maturity level is good, and he is a good vocal leader,” Stokes said. “He’s athletic enough when he keeps the play alive. He needs to get the ball out in awkward situations. McGough played great for us tonight.
“I think everyone is slightly banged up, but we had no major injuries during the spring.”
The senior-to-be completed 8-of-11 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort. He threw a 17-yard TD pass to Amani Oruwariye and a 22-yard scoring toss to Malik Huff.
“Losing people (to graduation) is tough, but you have to trust people that are coming up,” McGough said. “There are all new receivers and running backs, and we have to learn new stuff. We will be a ball control offense, but I hope we go with more spread. It worked well today.
“We have to work on blocking, picking up blitzes and running crisp routes,” he added. “I have to get the ball out quicker and stay up and not panic.”
Sickles running back Ray Ray McCloud rushed for 91 yards and scored two touchdowns, and quarterback Isaac Holder threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chet Levay.
“We are definitely rebuilding, but my approach doesn’t change too much,” Stokes said. “We look for effort and discipline. I think with our coaches and players we have better than average talent. I think we will be strong enough to give it a good run.”