A look at the 2010 Palmetto High football team, coached by Dave Marino.
NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: AUSTIN GORDON, jr., WR
It may be a bit much asking Gordon, a relative newcomer, to play such a big role. But the one thing Palmetto lacked last year was balance on offense — the Tigers passed for less than 600 yards and five TDs — and Gordon could help provide that. Known more for his basketball prowess, Gordon exploded during Palmetto’s spring game against St. Petersburg Northeast, when the 6-foot-6 rising junior finished with 174 receiving yards on six catches, two touchdowns and one highlight-reel worthy circus catch. But what impresses coach Dave Marino just as much is Gordon’s work ethic, especially since Gordon and quarterback Melvin Burston spent the summer working on their chemistry.
“They have committed to each other...Once basketball was over, they were throwing to each other,” Marino said. “They’ve really worked hard and committed to one another as far as getting time in and that connection to one another.
“We expect big things out of those guys.”
A strong passing game helped Palmetto win a district title in ‘08, and with this year’s team returning seven starters on defense, the ability to soar through the air could help the Tigers again.
If Gordon can build on what he started in the spring, Palmetto’s offense can return to its old versatile self.
“We’re looking forward to seeing more of that,” Marino said.
FILLING THE VOID: ZANE KITCHELL, jr., P
Brandon Tarpley and his 46 yards per punt graduated in May, but Marino is confident that Kitchell, who averages 40 yards per punt, can carry the torch. “Punting wise, we’re not going to have that much of a drop off,” Marino said. “Zane’s really worked hard.” Marino said there is a chance Kitchell will handle the plackicking and kickoff duties, as well.
DEEP AT: Defense.
A backbone of years past, the unit returns seven starters including cornerback Dallas Jackson, linebacker DaQual Randall and tackle Fitz Richards, all of whom are juniors. Senior Marquis Green, a running back last season, will slide back over to cornerback, where he started as a sophomore.
THIN AT: Offensive line.
Kevin O’Brien and Trai Sanders are the only two returners to this unit, and Marino said the biggest challenge this summer is finding three players to supplement them.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: DEQUAN REDDICK, jr., RB
Reddick isn’t new to the program, but he is new to his role as Palmetto’s starting running back. A year older, wiser and stronger, Reddick is ready to be Palmetto’s rock out of the backfield, Marino said, and he’ll have to be — Marquis Green, Palmetto’s top rusher from a year ago, will spend most of his time at cornerback.
COACH QUANDRY: Filling out the line.
With two starters on the offensive line, Marino, who served as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator before becoming the head coach, considers it a top priority to plug the other three holes. “We’ve got to shore that up,” Marino said.
CAMP STOCK: UP
The players’ commitment to each other. Marino said nobody has missed or been late any meetings, and he said the work ethic has been stellar all throughout the broiling summer.
CAMP STOCK: DOWN
The core is strong, but Marino said some of the players still haven’t gotten on board with the program yet. “We had to suspend 12 guys in the spring because of those reasons,” he said. “So we still have some guys fighting the system...Those fringe guys, we’d like to see them get on board.”
KEY GAME: NOV. 5 at Lakewood Ranch
Similar to last season, when the Mustangs blocked a field goal and returned it for a game-winning touchdown in the game’s final minute, this Week 10 clash could determine the final playoff spot out of Class 4A-District 11.
Sept. 3 SOUTHEAST
Sept. 10 at Manatee
Sept. 17 WAUCHULA HARDEE
Oct. 1 BAYSHORE
Oct. 8 CHARLOTTE
Oct. 15 at Riverview
Oct. 22 at Port Charlotte
Oct. 29 at Naples Gulf Coast
Nov. 5 at Lakewood Ranch
Nov. 12 BRADEN RIVER
at Southeast L, 20-3
MANATEE L, 35-3
at Wauchula Hardee L, 23-7
at Bayshore W, 27-9
at Punta Gorda Charlotte L, 29-14
RIVERVIEW W, 10-0
PORT CHARLOTTE W, 42-3
NAPLES GULF COAST W, 35-14
LAKEWOOD RANCH L, 17-13
at Braden River W, 7-3
BY THE NUMBERS:
4 — Area high schools where Dave Marino served as an assistant: Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto, Sarasota and Southeast.
6.6 — Points per game Palmetto allowed during its final five games.
3 — Head coaches at Palmetto since Bob Bowling resigned after the ‘03 season.
ON THE WEB: www.bradenton.com/Palmetto
HEAD COACH: Dave Marino, first season.