By Jeff Odom
For the first time in the program’s nine-year history, the Bishop McLaughlin Hurricanes are in a major district — Class 3A-District 4 — that will now make them eligible for the postseason for the first time sine 2007.
That has players excited for what could be coming down the road.
“We’re a private school and still a very young program,” senior quarterback R.J. Perciavalle said. “Moving into a district was necessary for moving the program forward.”
District 4, Perciavalle said, is one of the best districts in the state, and that’s going to be a challenge for the Hurricanes.
“Obviously we’re going to go out and try to win every game,” he said. “We know we’re young, but we’re trying as hard as we can, and we want to go out and prove ourselves.”
In its first district appearance since the 2007-08 season when it was in the now-defunct Class1B-District 8, Bishop McLaughlin will match up with Berkley Prep, Tampa Catholic, Fort Meade, Frostproof and Lakeland Christian. Three of those teams made the playoffs last season, and none had a losing record.
Bishop McLaughlin, however, finished last season at 4-7 as an FHSAA Independent in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.
Intimidated? Not at all, Perciavalle said.
“We’ve been picked last in a lot of preseason rankings and stuff like that, and we just want to show that we’re here to fight and not just some pushover team,” Perciavalle said.
One of the blueprints to how Bishop McLaughlin plans to reach its success can be found in the school’s cross-town rivals — Carrollwood Day School.
Though the Hurricanes lost to the Patriots 41-7 in their inaugural spring game back in May, the young program has drawn plenty of comparisons to Carrollwood Day, which went to the Class 2A region finals last season just three years after moving into its first district, 2A-5, because of how they are building their program.
Perciavalle threw for 1,319 yards with 15 total touchdowns last season and expects to use those numbers to help lead the team to a stronger upcoming season. Third-year coach Derrick Alexander said after the spring game that it will take leadership from players like Perciavalle to set up the program for success.
“We want to get stronger and in better shape,” Alexander said. “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.”
That’s even more important this season with a much tougher schedule ahead of Bishop McLaughlin.
“We’re trying to put in some extra work in the weight room, on the field and just do everything you can do to just better prepare ourselves,” Perciavalle said. “We know it’s not going to be easy, but we’re definitely up for the challenge.”
–Statistics as entered by coaches on Maxpreps.com; Follow Jeff Odom on Twitter @JOdomLaker