HERALD'S FORECAST: 6-4
Bradenton Christian has a weapon in Giardina for years to come. The keys to offense are at his disposal, and he should perform well. However, like any great quarterback (see Peyton Manning), there's a learning curve when moving up a level. Giardina should show his considerable talent, but the Panthers aren't quite ready to snag a playoff berth in such a large district, where every game is like a postseason battle.
NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: Lance Perkins, junior, linebacker, running back
In a profile questionnaire for the Herald, Perkins was asked what makes prep football in Manatee-Sarasota special.
"You are going to see 48 minutes of people flying to the ball and hitting hard," Perkins answered.
And that's the perfect way to describe the outside linebacker, who tries to be like Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison on the field.
Not a bad player to emulate.
But you wouldn't know his warrior demeanor just seeing him on campus.
"You look at him walk on the street and you don't say that's the guy that is a ferocious type of a linebacker," Gerber said. "But he's one of those guys when you hear click-click -- you know, click-click of the chin strap -- that he flips the switch and plays with a lot of energy. And that really rubs off on the rest of our football team."
Bradenton Christian will lean on him this season. The Panthers' 2011 campaign sputtered to a disappointing 3-6 record as BCS struggled with a key football skill: tackling opposing ball carriers.
In Perkins, the Panthers have a defensive leader and three-year starter. He registered more than 60 tackles last fall, and his abilities are considered a key component to the Panthers' success this season.
But the 5-foot-8, 160-pounder wasn't always a linebacker. He began his football career as a quarterback. Perkins said that didn't go well, and he was soon switched to safety.
Perkins didn't like that, and, as a freshman at BCS, he found a home at linebacker.
"I like to blitz," Perkins said. "I'll blitz. I'll drop back a little bit, but not much. ... I just like hitting."
Perkins isn't just a football player at BCS. He also plays baseball, but this fall he'll use his 40-yard dash time of 4.7 seconds on the outside to hunt down the opposition.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Joey Giardina, freshman, QB
Being thrust into the starting quarterback role for the Panthers' spring game as an eighth-grader began Giardina's learning curve. However, once he got acclimated to the increased speed at the varsity level, he showed talent that has Gerber singing his praises.
"We need to keep him healthy, and we need to evolve his quarterback mentality," Gerber said. "But what you can't coach is football instincts, and here's a young man that with the ball in his hand has really good feet and really good feel for the game. It's just a matter of him going out and playing."
Giardina ran for 165 yards and threw for an additional 199 in the spring game, flashing the mobility that should cause opposing defenses trouble, not only this fall but for the remainder of his prep career.
DEEP AT: The perimeter.
Like most small schools, the Panthers do not possess depth. However, Gerber said his club has lots of talent on the perimeter at the wide receiver and defensive back positions. And those wideouts should get plenty of reps in the BCS offense with Giardina at the controls.
"We have some talented receiver, defensive back type kids," Gerber said. "We have some kids that are good enough to play at Manatee, good enough to play at some of these other places."
THIN AT: The line.
While the Panthers should wreak havoc with its playmakers on the outside, BCS is one injury away from major concerns in the trenches. Gerber said his team has five solid starters and a transfer right behind them. However, the lack of depth at the position could cause a headache for the coaching staff should any of those starters go down with an injury during the season.
"Beyond that, we have a couple bodies, but there is a dramatic dropoff," Gerber said.
Aug. 31 at Lakeland Christian
Sept. 7 ST. PETE NORTHSIDE CHR.*
Sept. 14 at Tampa Cambridge*
Sept. 21 at Largo Indian Rocks Chr.*
Sept. 28 ST. PETE CANTERBURY*
Oct. 5 IMAGINE SCHOOL OF NORTH PORT
Oct. 12 TAMPA CARROLLWOOD DAY*
Oct. 19 ST. PETE ADMIRAL FARRAGUT*
Oct. 26 at Clearwater Calvary Chr.*
Nov. 2 at St. Pete Keswick Chr.*
Home games in ALL CAPS
*--Class 2A (urban)-District 5 game
THE MAIN EVENT
Aug. 24 vs. Cardinal Mooney -- A Kickoff Classic game doesn't carry any significance; the outcome has no bearing on whether a team advances to postseason play. The same can be said for non-district contests. However, Cardinal Mooney is the first team on the Panthers' schedule. The result can have an enormous bearing on the Panthers' momentum leading into a regular season, where they will battle in a nine-team district for only two playoff spots. It's also a chance to see how BCS can improve its tackling ability against last season's leading area rusher, Anthony Caiazzo, who had cracked 300 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks.
at Lakeland Christian L, 49-35
at St. Pete Northside Chr. W, 55-6
TAMPA CAMBRIDGE CHR. L, 43-25
LARGO INDIAN ROCKS CHR. L, 42-28
at St. Pete Canterbury W, 35-14
at Tampa Carrollwood Day L, 33-17
at St. Pete Admiral Farragut L, 38-22
CLEARWATER CALVARY CHR. L, 14-13
ST. PETE KESWICK CHR. W, 24-20
24: number of players who turned out for the Panthers' first day of fall practice
1: losing seasons for Gerber at BCS
0: program playoff appearances
IN THE CORNER
Allan Gerber, 24-15, fifth season
GET IN THE RING WITH: Tony Williams, offensive line
The toughest player on my team (other than me) is: Lance Perkins
What makes prep football in Manatee-Sarasota special? Football is so important around here, and every team is competitive.
My favorite sports move is: "Blind Side"
You're a first-round NFL draft pick. What's the first thing you buy with your signing bonus? An Audi
My favorite moment playing football is: Getting a pancake block downfield.