NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM | WYATT KNOPFKE | senior | offensive line
The minute Knopfke headed north to Saint Stephen's from Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, the Saint Stephen's offensive line became much bigger and much better.
Knopfke is ranked 288th in the ESPN300 and has verbally committed to Boston College. He's a 6-foot-4, 288-pound guard who will help anchor a Falcons offense that generally likes to run the football.
Most importantly, however, is the positive impact an experienced and touted player such as Knopfke can have on a roster as young as Saint Stephen's.
"He really loves what he does, so he has this energy about him, this enthusiasm about him," head coach Tod Creneti said, "and it's contagious. You always have a good player elevate the play of the players around them, but not everyone does it with such a great attitude and a great outlook."
Creneti said Knopfke may see some time on the other side of the ball. But he'll be used primarily on offense, giving the Falcons a weapon most like-sized schools don't have -- a big, Division I lineman.
"His energy is contagious," Creneti said. "And I hope that catches on."
IMPACT NEWCOMER | FRED BILLY, freshman, quarterback
Following an impressive performance in the spring game, Billy accounted for 219 yards and a rushing touchdown during last week's Kickoff Classic against Orlando Christian Prep. He's the sort of dual threat the Falcons haven't had under center.
NEEDS A BIG SEASON FROM: Luc Goeders | senior | RB
At the beginning of last season, Luc Goeders was a slot receiver.
By the conclusion of last season, Goeders had rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. Not bad for a kid who never played football prior to his freshman year.
"We just weren't getting production from the running back spot," coach Tod Creneti said. "And Luc just kept preparing and grinding and worked hard and when he got his opportunity, he just knocked it out of the park."
Goeders finished with 977 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns, highlighted by his 363-yard, four-touchdown performance against Fort Myers Canterbury. Goeders rushed for at least 100 yards in four of the Falcons' final five games and 97 in the other one. He heads into this fall as the Falcons' top option out of the backfield, and Creneti is pleased with how well the senior has prepared himself for what should be a busy season.
"He takes the responsiblity very seriously, on and off the field," Creneti said. "He's done a lot to prepare himself physically and mentally, and Luc is a guy ... who is relishing the opportunity to take that on."
Goeders doubled as a defensive back last season, totaling 28 tackles. Creneti said Goeders will shift to outside linebacker this season.
But his real key to the Falcons will be his ability to run the football, a role Goeders handled well last season even though he wasn't expected to do so.
"He's a guy we need another big year from," Creneti said. "We need to be able to run the ball consistently. That will set up our ability to do everything else."
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Wyatt Knopfke, sr., OL/DL
A Boston College commit, Knopfke transerred over from Cardinal Mooney and will provide a huge boost to the offensive line. "He really loves what he does. He has this energy about him and this enthusiasm about him, and it's contagious," Creneti said. "You always have a good player elevate the play of the players around him, but not everybody does it with such a great attitude and great outlook." Creneti said Knopfke will play some defense but will be used primarily on the offensive line.
DEEP AT: DB
Garrett Barnes returns after nabbing four interceptions last year, as does Bobby Harrison, who had one interception and nine passes defended. Griffin Donnolley and Jordon Murrell will man the other two corner spots. "You're talking about four very good football players," Creneti said.
THIN AT: None
Armed with a program-best 32 players, Creneti is comfortable with the size of the roster. "We don't feel like we're screaming for a backup at any one position," he said. "There are places where you'd always like to have another body or two, but I don't think there's anything we're alarmed by."
HERALD FORECAST: 5-3
The Falcons don't know a whole lot about their opponents, many of whom they will be seeing for the first time while competing in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference's Bay Divsion. But with key guys back and some depth behind them, the Falcons should be a tough out against like-sized foes.
HEAD COACH Tod Creneti, 8-20, fourth year at Saint Stephen's; 34-74 overall
BY THE NUMBERS
0: Games the Falcons will play at Palma Sola Park now that their $4.5 million athletic facility has been completed.
1: Area team on Saint Stephen's schedule -- Out-of-Door Academy.
32: Players on the roster, the most the team has had since Saint Stephen's began playing football again in 2006.
29 BISHOP McLAUGHLIN
5 at Seffner Chr.#
12 KISSIMMEE CITY OF LIFE*
19 at Citrus Park Chr.
26 WINDERMERE PREP*
3 at Lakeland Santa Fe Chr.*
10 ST. PETE KESWICK CHR.
24 at Out-of-Door Academy
Games start at 7 p.m., except # (7:30 p.m.)
*--Sunshine State Athletic Conference game
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 24 at Out-of-Door Academy
The only local team on the Falcons' schedule is also one of its biggest rivals. Saint Stephen's won The Headmaster's Cup last year with ease, so the Thunder wouldn't mind trying to exact some revenge.
5-5, 3-2 Gulf Atlantic Conference
at Calvary Christian L, 20-7
CITRUS PARK CHR. W, 64-6
at Winter Park Trinity Prep L, 42-0
COMM. SCHOOL OF NAPLES L, 45-6
at St. Pete Canterbury L, 21-7
CAPE CORAL OASIS W, 40-8
at Fort Myers Canterbury W, 52-20
OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY W, 20-0
at Fort Myers Gateway Charter L, 54-41
WEST PALM BEACH BEREAN CHR. W, 17-0