After a years-long rebuilding project, Saint Stephen’s finally made it to the Florida Bowl last season. But to win the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s championship game, the Falcons would have to avenge their lone loss to Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic and Fred Billy amend his worst performance of the season.
Instead, SSES delivered a dud, suffering a 33-0 pummeling in Oviedo and the quarterback, a second-team All-Area choice, went 2 for 12 through the air with three interceptions.
“The goal we tried to accomplish we didn’t accomplish last year,” the quarterback said. “We’ve just got to go out every game and prove that we’re the team that we expect to be, and that’s the best team in the SSAC and one of the best teams in the county.”
Saint Stephen’s rushing attack became one of the best in the county last season with the addition of a triple option attack. Billy was the ideal centerpiece for an offense that finished with four 350-yard rushers. The Falcons played to his skill set.
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This year, SSES will complement Billy’s legs with the addition of run-pass options and shorter routes.
“I feel like this is a season where I can really display my accuracy this year,” Billy said, “show that I’m one of the best players in the county on one of the best teams in the county.”
DB to watch
Lethario Jones Jr., Sr.
Jones fits the role of the modern strong safety — a gifted run-stopper with a defensive back’s build and the coverage skills to drape wide receivers or tight ends. He’ll spend a lot of time in the box for Saint Stephen’s and his versatility makes him one of the Falcons’ most valuable pieces.
Dylan Davis, Fr., C/DL
One new offensive line starter was a contributor on the line last year. One was a starter on defense. The third is Davis, a freshman center with a 6-3, 240-pound frame.
“He’s going to be a beast down the road,” Billy said.
At a glance
Herald’s forecast: 8-0
Saint Stephen’s graduated two players after last year’s run to the Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship game and is among the favorites to win the conference. The Falcons toughest test will come during Week 2 when they welcome Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, last year’s SSAC champion, to Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Fields. The two could be on a crash course to meet once again in the Florida Bowl, and the regular-season meeting could, once again, provide a championship preview.
Deep at: Running back
Thin at: Lines
Head coach: Tod Creneti
Career: Sixth year, 24-25 (2-1 postseason)
Community School of Naples
Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic
at Clearwater Calvary Christian
at Bradenton Christian*, 7:30 p.m.
St. Petersburg Keswick Christian*
at Out-of-Door Academy*
St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep*
Games start at 7 p.m. unless noted
* — SSAC Coral Bay game
at Windermere Prep W 49-38
at St. Petersburg
Keswick Christian W, 48-6
at Winter Haven
All Saints’ Academy W, 53-6
Canterbury W, 37-7
at Bishop McLaughlin
Catholic W, 28-0
at Santa Fe Catholic L, 35-21
at Zephyrhills Christian
Academy W, 21-10
Academy W, 47-7
at Seven Rivers
Christian W, 56-37
at Boca Raton
Christian W, 35-0
Santa Fe Catholic L, 33-0