By JOHN LEMBO email@example.com
Numbers will mean everything this season at Saint Stephens.
Were not talking about wins, although those are always nice.
Were talking about bodies. The Falcons football team needs them and needs to find them before they do anything else.
Thats the challenge facing Tod Creneti, hired as the schools new football coach last week.
His goal isnt so much to build a winner -- but some enthusiasm, some fervor, centering around football.
Thats the first step.
Last years team had just 18 players, and sometimes fewer at practices. Regardless of the size of the school, or the quality of your district, thats not enough.
Thats what Creneti needs to do before he does anything. And it sounds like hes aware of that.
He wants to make football a happening at Saint Stephens, something that builds from the inside out. The Falcons dont need to pack the bleachers or snarl traffic along Manatee Avenue every Friday afternoon -- they just need to spread some enthusiasm.
In Creneti, they have a guy a who has built from the ground up before, taking over programs at Melbourne Central Catholic and St. Petersburg Catholic after each had been hit hard by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Saint Stephens is nowhere near that boat. There are no stigmas attached to the Falcons, no probations or fines hanging over their heads.
They just havent taken to football quite the same way as the folks at Out-of-Door Academy and Bradenton Christian. The Thunder and Panthers hatched their programs in 2006, the same year the Falcons reintroduced the sport at Saint Stephens.
This is no easy task. Commitment is everything in football, and if kids dont think they want to come out, or choose not to commit 100 percent to the grind, then they shouldnt.
And Saint Stephens isnt any less of a school because the football team is struggling. But if youre going to have and field a program, why not try and make it as competitive and as fun as possible?
What makes prep football so great is because it can be the most galvanizing of all sports -- especially here in Florida, and especially here in Manatee County.
It begins in the hallways, however, and then spreads throughout the community.
So maybe football will work at Saint Stephens, or maybe it wont. But the fate of the football program is in the hands of those who are the closest to it, and only they will dictate whether the Falcons will fly or not.
Right now, wins are secondary at Saint Stephens.
Participation, however, isnt.
John Lembo, Herald sportswriter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097.