Posted: 11:08 am Thursday, August 20th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
No matter what happens at Glades Day, the Gators are going to be a competitive small-school team as long as they have a healthy Kelvin Taylor in the backfield. But if they want to win a state title during Taylor’s remaining four years, the Gators have to stop letting opposing running backs impersonate him.
Glades Day averaged 30.5 points per game in the regular season, but yielded nearly 24 points per game on defense and was miserable against the run. Opponents rushed for 2,517 yards on the ground against the Gators last year. It’s hard to beat good teams with a porous run defense and Glades Day finished 6-6 after losing to Fort Meade in the second round of the playoffs. Without Taylor’s 1,433 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns as an eighth-grader, that record could have been a lot worse.
The Gators graduated six players who started on defense in last year’s season opener, but coach Pete Walker is optimistic about the new personnel.
“It can’t get any worse,” he said of last year’s defense.
The key players to watch in this year’s defensive front are seniors Tony Kibler and Todd Jackowitz.
Kibler, an all-area and all-state offensive tackle at Okeechobee last season, transferred to Glades Day and immediately was the Gators’ second best player. Kibler (6-6, 315, No. 18 on The Big Board) will be Glades Day’s best blocker on the offensive line and will require double teams on every play as a defensive tackle.
KIbler has been limited in practice this month because he had surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his left knee. Walker said he is unlikely to play in next week’s kickoff classic at John Carroll but should be ready for the season opener at Benjamin.
“It’s nothing,” Kibler said of the injury, pointing out a small scar on his knee. “I’m not really expecting any problems from it.”
Kibler is committed to South Florida as an offensive lineman.
Jackowitz (5-8, 180) started the season at middle linebacker last year but Walker shuffled him to defensive line as he searched for a solution to his team’s problems against the run. This season Jackowitz heads back to linebacker, which is a more natural position for someone his size. He is still a little on the small side for a middle linebacker, but Jackowitz is smart enough to anticipate plays out of the backfield and quick enough to fall back into coverage against a pass.
Offensively, this is still a strong roster despite graduating all 11 starters from the beginning of the season (that number does not count Taylor, who was second-string until Brandon Dean blew out his knee).
He will only be a freshman this season, but Taylor (5-10, 200) is arguably the best running back in the area. Other players who could lay claim to that title include Glades Central’s Antwan Chisholm, Atlantic’s Donnell Kirkwood and Park Vista’s Tre Mason. Taylor averaged 9.1 yards per carry last year, but still has so much room to improve. He is far from a finished product, which is a scary thought for anyone on Glades Day’s schedule. During the off-season, Taylor upped his bench to 275 and his squat to 410. Barring injuries, he will get more carries this year and 1,800 yards is reasonably within his capacity.
“He’s a little bit bigger and this year has the offense down from Day 1,” Walker said.
The Gators have some talented wide receivers in camp, but that will only be relevant if sophomore quarterback Tanner Redish is capable of running the offense. Walker said he has not opened the season with a sophomore starting quarterback since Kyle McNamara in 1999.
Redish (6-0, 170) was on varsity last year but only took a few snaps in games.
“He’s got all the throws; he’s just inexperienced,” Walker said. “He’s athletic, so he can run when he needs to, but he’s more of a passer. He’s also a very good leader in the huddle.”
If Redish progresses, Glades Day will be able to stretch the field with speedy receivers DeVonte Allen (6-3, 185) and Jontavious Brown (5-8, 150). Allen caught 22 passes for 390 yards last year and was honorable mention all-area.
One other change for the Gators is they move down one level to Class 1B. That takes them out of American Heritage’s classification, but lumps them in with two-time state champion Jupiter Christian in District 7-1B. Jupiter Christian beat the Gators 28-13 in Belle Glade last year and is the favorite to win this district, but Glades Day should grab the No. 2 spot and go to the playoffs. The other three teams in the district are Summit Christian, Berean Christian and Deerfield Beach-Zion Lutheran.
The Gators will play five teams that made the playoffs last year: Jupiter Christian, Clewiston, Miami-Dade Christian, Miami-Belen Jesuit and King’s Academy. Not counting Berean Christian, Glades Day’s opponents combined for a .635 winning percentage last season. Here is the Gators’ 2009 schedule (last year’s record in parenthesis):
Week 1, at Benjamin (5-5)
Week 2, vs. Miami-Dade Christian (8-3)
Week 3, vs. Clewiston (7-4)
Week 4, at Jupiter Christian (14-0), game is at Benjamin
Week 5, BYE
Week 6, at Summit Christian (6-4)
Week 7, at Miami-Belen Jesuit (7-3)
Week 8, vs. Berean Christian (N/A)
Week 9, vs. King’s Academy (8-3)
Week 10, at Deerfield Beach-Zion Lutheran (5-5)
Week 11, vs. Hialeah Gardens-Mater Academy (1-8)