One other little return regular: Spring Excessive College Soccer
SARASOTA – By this point last year, COVID-19 had changed lives as we knew it, and for high school soccer coaches and players in the area and state, it meant life without spring soccer.
Face masks replaced face masks attached to helmets.
“They are so used to (spring football),” said Josh Smithers, chief football coach at Riverview High School. “You don’t realize how important it is until you have it.”
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But from Monday the practice fields were buzzing when the teams resumed spring training after a one-year break. As for Smithers, who last year didn’t have time to help new offensive coordinator Todd Haley familiarize himself with Riverview’s offensive players, the next three weeks, culminating with a spring game against Booker High, will be used to host a multitude to speak of things.
“You come back to your meetings trying to figure out what you did well and what you didn’t do well,” said Smithers, whose team ended 9-2 last season and lost to Osceola in a regional final. As with most head coaches, younger players are identified to fill in their teams’ depth maps.
“The guys behind (the starters) getting the reruns trying to find those backups,” said Smithers, who feels he already knows what he’s got in his seasoned players like linebacker Brady Bloom. “For them it’s just about getting going again.”
Smithers will also use the time to access quarterback competition between Will Carter Jr., who led the Rams’ JV team to an undefeated season last year, and IMG Academy’s transferring Joe Borchers.
At Sarasota High, head coach Brody Wiseman has to do without quarterback Lance Trippel, who plays for the Sailor baseball team in the postseason. A year ago, Trippel hadn’t even been approached by Wiseman about playing soccer.
“It’s about reps,” said Wiseman, who said the aspiring senior has improved his game significantly since taking over as Sarasota’s starter in a 71-0 loss to Venice in early October. “The player he is today, from where he was a year ago, is amazing and I’m so happy that people can see that. I think it’s one of the best kept secrets (around).”
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Wiseman is also excited to see the advancement of the aspiring junior Tyler Pack, the younger brother of former Sailors Robert and Terrell. Last season, the 6-foot-3, 170-pounder played cornerback and wide receiver. This season, he said, he’ll be making his repertoire safer.
“Mostly the basics, that’s what you really need,” Tyler said when asked what he needs to work on this spring. “That makes you a better recipient and better security.”
Wiseman said: “He’s a little more polished (on the wide receiver) than Terrell. He started 11 games on the corner and held his own last season.”
At Palmetto High, head coach Dave Marino said the start of spring football is not a return to normalcy. “Not 100% normal because the college coaches can’t come down and see the kids and they don’t get the exposure they would,” he said. “But absolutely, it’s a step towards normalcy.”
After the graduation of quarterback Josh Siplin, the Tigers, who lost to Miami Central in the semifinals last season, will be led by aspiring senior Alzavien Houston. But after Cleve Benson returns and Palmetto adds former 1000-yard rusher Lavontae Youmans from the Braden River, Marino should have a barrel attack strong enough to slowly advance Houston.
“The philosophy is that we would rely on the game in progress anyway,” said Marino. With a strong run attack, Marino said the throwing windows for quarterbacks are getting bigger and reading defense is getting easier.
“It should be good for the young quarterback to make progress,” he said.
Three local teams – Charlotte, Manatee and hosts Venice – will visit Lakeland High for the first-ever Spring Classic on May 21 from 6:30 p.m. at Powell Davis Stadium. Each school will play two-quarters of the game.