NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: Jeremy Jackman, sr., ILB/G
If Falcons head coach Tod Creneti had his wish, all 11 guys on defense would play with the same sort of vigor as Jackman, who totaled 85 tackles last season.
"If we can get our unit to play with the passion and intensity he does, we're going to be better on defense," Creneti said. "And we need to be better on defense."
The Falcons limited just two teams to fewer than 20 points last season, and that unit must be stingier in order for the offense to be given time to gel.
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Enter Jackman, set to enter this third season at inside linebacker.
"We need to be faster on defense; we need to be more athletic on defense," Creneti said. "And Jeremy embodies all those things. We'd like to see his attitude and his mentality to begin to affect everyobdy else on the field."
Leadership will be key this season for the Falcons, especially after prolific running back Herman Israelsson graduated last summer.
Jackman may be quiet, Creneti said, but he is certainly up to filling the void.
"He plays with a great motor," Creneti said. "And if we have 11 kids playing with a great motor, we feel good about our chances."
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Michael Burtch, frOsh., ILB/FB
The Ruskin resident who will commute to Bradenton each day stands nearly 6 feet tall and weighs 185 pounds and has a nose for the ball, Creneti said. "Smart kid, good kid," Creneti said, "and he brings a lot to the table."
DEEP AT: LB/DB
With the exception of the line, Creneti said the Falcons are two-deep everywhere on defense, a luxury for a team with 25 players. A surplus of guys in the backfield also can translate into depth at wide receiver.
THIN AT: LINE
Creneti likes the starters on both sides, but he said there are not a whole lot of them, meaning single players will have to man both sides of the ball. Creneti said new offensive line coach Cody Hughes, a standout lineman and state lifting champion at Lakewood Ranch, has given that unit a shot in the arm.
BY THE NUMBERS
0: District games the Falcons will play. Saint Stephen's is an independnt member of the FHSAA for football and will compete in the newly-formed Gulf Atlantic Conference.
0: Night football games the Falcons have played at home. That changes this year with the completion of the school's new $4.5 million athletic facility.
38.1: Yards the versatile Jeremy Jackman averaged on 23 punts last season.
HERALD'S FORECAST: 3-6
The Falcons appear to have something they haven't had in years: depth, which is essential for a small-school team. Saint Stephen's ended last year strong, splitting the final four games, so that could carry over into this fall.
Tod Creneti, third year; 3-15 at Saint Stephen's, 29-69 overall
Aug. 30 at Clearwater Calvary Chr.%
Sept. 6 CITRUS PARK CHR.
Sept. 13 at Winter Park Trinity Prep^
Sept. 20 COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF NAPLES*Sept. 27 at St, Petersburg Canterbury
Oct. 4 OASIS CHARTER SCHOOL*
Oct. 11 at Fort Myers Canterbury#*
Oct. 25 OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY
Nov. 1 at Fort Myers Gateway Charter*
Games start at 7 p.m., unless noted
#--To be announced
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
*--Gulf Atlantic Conference
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 25 vs. Out-of-Door Academy
The Falcons are competing as an independent this year, so getting a chance to win bragging rights against a geographical rival will be nice. This is Saint Stephen's lone game against an area school.
NAPLES ST. JOHN NEUMANN L, 50-7
at Naples First Baptist Academy L, 67-0
at Southwest Florida Chr. L, 26-20
FORT MYERS GATEWAY CHARTER W, 21-0
at St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep L, 29-14
MOORE HAVEN L, 56-0
FORT MYERS EVANGELICAL CHR. W, 35-19
at Community School of Naples L, 35-14
at Out-of-Door Academy L, 42-20
at St. Petersburg Northside Chr. W, 35-26