BRADENTON -- The Bradenton Christian football team went through an up-and-down season in 2012.
Joey Giardina, a rising sophomore, gained experience during a full season as the Panthers signal-caller in 2012.
And on Friday night against Saint Stephen's, Giardina will be joined by two key returning players who dazzled Panthers fans on a regular basis in rising seniors Sinclair Laskett and Lance Perkins.
One is a shifty running back who can rip off a long touchdown run. The other is a bruising linebacker who racked up 128 tackles last season.
"You talk about 128 tackles on any level, that's an enormous season defensively," Panthers head coach Allan Gerber said. "And Sinclair is lightning in the bottle. He has the ability to on any given play to turn it into something that is huge. He's the guy, that when the ball touches 'Seven's' hands, the crowd just kind of holds their breath to see what's going to happen. It might be a little bit of a Barry Sanders, where it's a minus-two, minus-two, zero and then an 80-yard touchdown. But he's got that type of explosiveness. And Lance just has a great feel for the game on defense."
They are the primary leaders on offense and defense, respectively.
Laskett nearly gave up on football a couple years ago, opting to focus on basketball. However, his first love is on the gridiron, and Laskett's brief departure from the game only hardened him for an explosive junior season.
He totaled 842 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns as one of BCS' main offensive weapons.
"I did all right as an individual," Laskett said. "But this season, I plan on doing a lot more for my team and taking my team far and deep into the playoffs."
Meanwhile, Perkins solidified a defense that entered last fall needing to improve its tackling.
The Panthers played in a difficult district in 2012 alongside St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut and Tampa Carrollwood Day, and the season was not a successful venture for a program that has never qualified
for postseason play.
Despite the 4-6 record, though, there were bright spots, thanks in part to Laskett and Perkins performing at a high level.
"It's all about team," Perkins said. "We play as one, we should do pretty good."
Like most small schools, the Panthers are forced to use players on both sides of the ball.
So when Laskett isn't roaming the offensive backfield, he's playing defensive back.
And when Perkins isn't dishing out a punishing hit, he's filling in at tailback to arm Gerber with some flexibility at that position.
Laskett has dealt with playing two positions and has been a kick returner for a full season already.
But before the fall season gets under way with August practices, the calendar is pointing squarely on Friday's showdown with rival Saint Stephen's.
And the game against the Falcons gives BCS the chance to see just what it has heading into the summer.