Saint Stephen's Falcons
Fred Billy's breakout freshman season helped the Falcons put together their best season since reinstating the team in 2006. As the quarterback enters is sophomore season as one of 16 returning starters, SSES should be able to build off its success in 2014.
Needs a big season from: The defense
When Tod Creneti tried to arrange his depth chart at the start of the fall his challenges were different than most coaches. He, for the most part, knew who his 11 best players were on defense; he just had to make sure he was putting them in the right place. The Falcons are going to win games because of their defense this year, so this puzzle is most important.
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For the best example of SSES's dedication to its defense look to its secondary. Bobby Harrison and Jordon Murrell were Saint Stephen's leading receivers in 2014 and won't even start on offense -- Creneti wants them as starting defensive backs instead.
"We feel like our defense is intact for the most part," Creneti said. "If we can stop other teams from scoring it gives us a little grace period to get our offense on track and so that's our goal is to keep people out of the end zone, so we're gonna put our best 11 out there on defense."
There are still a handful of key players who will start both ways - running backs Jordan Murrell, Jordon's cousin, and Alex Virgilio are also the starting inside linebackers, and Jake Westberry will start on both lines - and with only 26 players the Falcons will need players to pitch in on both sides.
Last year, SSES frequently deferred when they won the coin toss to establish a tone and flip field position immediately. With a group that may even better than 2014's, Saint Stephen's will win with defense again.
"We feel like we're an elite group with elite players," said Westberry, who has drawn interest from Miami, Duke and Wake Forest. "Everybody's come up together. We've learned to trust each other."
Impact Newcomer: DESTIN FALLS, fr., WR/DE
When Falls walked off the field after getting his team picture taken a week before his Saint Stephen's debut he crossed paths with head coach Tod Creneti.
"I hope you look half as good on the field as you do in that uniform," Creneti told him.
Falls smiled and continued on his way to the locker room. He's new to the school and the program, and Creneti already has high hopes for one of his newest additions. Primarily a basketball player, Falls has a combination of size and athleticism which Creneti hopes will cause matchup issues for opponents this season.
Wingman: Bobby Harrison, WR
Even if Harrison doesn't start at wide receiver for Saint Stephen's he'll be one of Fred Billy's top targets this season. He led the run-heavy Falcons with 11 catches and 263 yards last season. With SSES focusing on defense, Harrison will start in the secondary and head coach Tod Creneti wants to avoid starting players on both sides of the ball when possible. Still, Harrison will be a central figure in Saint Stephen's passing game.
Deep at: Linebacker
Saint Stephen's has six players it would feel comfortable starting at linebacker.
Thin at: Running back
Alex Virgilio and Jordan Murrell are a strong top two, but head coach Tod Creneti wants to find a third back.
By the numbers:
2 -- Seniors on the entire Saint Stephen's roster -- lineman Jake Westberry and athlete Bobby Harrison
5.6 -- Yards per carry for quarterback Fred Billy in 2014
82 -- Rushing attempts for Billy during his freshman campaign, the same number as his passing attempts
Regular season 5-3, 2-3 Sunshine State Athletic
SPRING HILL BISHOP McLAUGHLIN W, 42-0
at Seffner Christian L, 35-10
LAKE MARY PREP W, 47-7
at Citrus Park Christian W, 18-7
WINDERMERE PREP L, 49-12
LAKELAND SANTA FE CATHOLIC L, 36-28
ST. PETERSBURG KESWICK CHRISTIAN W, 31-19
at Out-of-Door W, 43-21
Sunshine State Athletic Conference Playoffs
GAINESVILLE SAINT FRANCIS CATHOLIC W, 35-0
Head coach: Tod Creneti, 14-23, 5th year at Saint Stephen's; 40-77 overall for his career
28 at Windermere Prep*
4 at St. Petersburg Keswick Christian*
11 WINTER HAVEN ALL SAINTS*
18 ST. PETERSBURG CANTERBURY*
2 at Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin*
9 at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic*
16 at Zephyrhills Christian*
Games start at 7 p.m.
*--Sunshine State Athletic Conference game
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