ST. PETERSBURG -- In the aftermath of Out-of-Door Academy's spring football game, Brett Timmons chose to look at the roster rather than the scoreboard.
His Thunder fell 17-13 to St. Petersburg Northside Christian on Friday night, but Timmons, the only head coach since the school began playing football in 2006, was pleased with how his youngsters handled their first varsity game under the lights.
"I'm ecstatic," he said.
Of the 28 players listed on ODA's roster Friday, 14 were in eighth grade.
"To be down by 10?" said Timmons, whose Thunder trailed 17-7 before scoring a touchdown with no time left on the clock. "Man, I'm proud of these guys."
Rising senior Drew Fineberg scored the game's first touchdown early in the first quarter on a 5-yard run. But a second-quarter leg injury ended his night.
Fineberg was carried off the field by Timmons and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott, entering his second season as the Mustangs' head coach. That gave Fineberg's younger brother, Jason, a chance.
The rising freshman took full advantage, chewing up 167 yards on 17 carries and scoring a touchdown. Jason Fineberg, whose 28-yard interception help set
up Drew's score, accrued 84 yards on his final three carries.
"You lose your varsity wide receiver/running back, and you bring his brother in, who's an eighth-grader," Timmons said. "The future (is) bright for this program. ... Once we get the full complement of our guys back, I'm real excited."
The Thunder graduated veteran quarterback Evan Wilson, while other key players, such as Tyler Dietrich, who will compete to be Wilson's replacement in the summer, missed most of the spring because of baseball obligations.
That gave way to eighth-grader Nathan Strawderman, who was 3-of-12 passing Friday, though some of those incompletions were drops.
"He was nervous. This is his first time on the big stage," said Timmons, adding Strawderman asked to wear No. 7, which was Wilson's last year. "I said, 'I'm not giving you No.7.' He needs to be Nathan Strawderman and not try to be Evan Wilson. ... Whatever we give him in the fall, he needs to make that number his own."
The Thunder play Naples First Baptist in a Kickoff Classic and open the regular season at home against Bradenton Christian.
"We're trying to rekindle that," Timmons said of playing the Panthers, "and get some crosstown rivalries going."