NEED A BIG SEASON FROM | CHAD REX | senior | quarterback
Chad Rex has been Mr. Ironman for the Lakewood Ranch football program. Despite being a spindly 134 pounds as a freshman and even now not possessing a physique that would frighten linebackers at 6-foot, 174 pounds, he has never missed a football game at Lakewood Ranch.
Now he is being asked to take another step forward and carry this offense to the playoffs. He lost top receiver Cameron Pearcey, who is concentrating on baseball, but still has several good pass catchers and a stable of running backs who can chew up yardage. Rex always has been elusive and hard to bring down, but the coaching staff wants him to become a true dual threat. "Chad is an excellent runner, but we are looking for him to be more consistent in the passing game. He has two good receivers, and our offensive line is back so everything is there for him. I am not against throwing it (a lot)," Mustangs head coach Mick Koczersut said. What the coach is saying is that Ranch goes how Rex goes.
IMPACT NEWCOMER | DAYMON MURRAY | junior | safety
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder moved up to varsity at the end of last year after a successful season with the JV team. He has matured physically and added speed, which enables him to cover receivers and come up and stop the run. Coach K and his staff are expecting big things and hope he will help a secondary that struggled at times last year.
DEEP AT | Offensive line/running backs/receivers
This program is known for turning out big, talented offensive linemen, and this year is no exception with the entire offensive line returning in tackles Sam Jackson (6-5, 290) and Dave Overmeyer (6-4, 285), center Alex Gold (5-11, 230) and guards Kyle Mathis (6-2, 280) and Josh Jones (6-1, 265). There is a bevy of running backs led by Justin Fischer and several talented receivers in Brandon Hadley and Trevor Losada.
THIN AT: Linebackers/defensive line
The linebacking corps suffered some injuries during the spring and needs to return to health to help Wanley Desire, its best player and only returning starter from this unit, who also plays safety. The Mustangs have to replace three starters on the defensive line, but Coach K says he has six kids he can plug in who should be able to get the job done, though they lack experience.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 19 vs. Braden River
With the local football landscape changing, you could make a case this is the county's biggest rivalry. Agree or not, to the players and fans out near Interstate 75, it gets no bigger than this especially with district title on the line. Ranch has beaten Braden River four straight times after losing the first three games in this series. Both teams should be good this year, adding to the luster.
HERALD'S FORECAST 6-4
This is the year everyone connected with the football program has been anticipating. Veteran quarterback Chad Rex will be operating behind an experienced offensive line and has good sets of backs and receivers to help him. The defense should be improved with the return of cornerback Craig Bain, a Herald All-Area first-team selection last season, and safety/linebacker Wanley Desir. The schedule is not easy with arch-rival Braden River and Palmetto and a district that has talent. The defense needs to tighten up and prevent the big play for it to be a big year. Mick Koczersut gets his first head coaching job, and expect the offensive innovator to have some tricks up his sleeve.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive fireworks should mark Mick Koczersut's first year as a head coach.
Average points the Mustangs gave up in their five losses in 2013.
Playoff appearances all time by Lakewood Ranch.
29 at Southeast
5 TAMPA JESUIT
19 BRADEN RIVER*
26 PUNTA GORDA CHARLOTTE
2 at North Port*
17 at Palmetto*
24 at Riverview
7 at Port Charlotte
Games start at 7:30 p.m.
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS
*--Class 7A-District 10 game
5-5, 2-2 Class 7A-District 10
SOUTHEAST W, 55-34
at Tampa Jesuit L, 31-7
at Bayshore L, 35-13
BRADEN RIVER W, 42-31
at Charlotte W, 26-23
NORTH PORT W, 35-21
PALMETTO L, 33-19
RIVERVIEW L, 27-10
at Sarasota L, 41-14
PORT CHARLOTTE W, 14-13
-- Alan Dell, Herald sports writer