At a glance
Herald’s forecast: 2-6
Bradenton Christian’s first season in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference was a success by any measure. The Panthers reached the postseason for the first time with an explosive offense and improved defense. In January, though, BCS made a coaching change. With its quarterback graduating, Bradenton Christian already was going to have a potential rebuilding year, only now the Panthers will have to do it with a new head coach at the helm.
Deep at: Special teams
Thin at: Offensive backfield
Head coach: Dan Fort
Career: eighth year (first at Bradenton Christian), 12-48
Needs a big season from: Bathie Thiam, Sr., WR/CB/K
The most-important player to Bradenton Christian’s 2017 hopes will be on the field when the Panthers take their first kickoff. Then, when BCS sets up its defense, he will be out in the secondary, making sure his teammates are in the right place. And then, when the Panthers finally take over on offense, he’ll slide out wide, where he’ll be a favorite target for whoever is under center for BCS.
Bathie Thiam is Bradenton Christian’s jack of all trades both out of necessity and because he’s worthy. A longtime soccer player, Thiam was a second-team all-area selection as a punter last year and second-team All-Sunshine State Athletic Conference as a kicker. His athleticism, though, made him intriguing as a wide receiver and cornerback, and last year he finished the regular season fifth in Manatee County in receiving yards.
“He’s a (Division I) kicker, no doubt about it. I think he could probably kick for anybody in the country right now,” head coach Dan Fort said. “But he’s such a good athlete that in a game we have to find ways to rest him and that’s going to be the challenge, actually, because he can play on the field all the time.”
The Panthers will try to pick their spots with Thiam, and it could mean less time at wide receiver. Defensive back is his newest position and it happens to be where BCS needs the most help – Bradenton Christian has enough capable wide receivers to rotate in. Fort envisions the senior as the leader of the defense, potentially calling out alignments from safety or serving as a playmaker on the corner.
In all three phases of the game, Thiam has a chance to be the Panthers’ best player. But how much can BCS squeeze out of him?
“We’re going to have to find ways to rest him so he doesn’t die,” Fort said. “Or he’s just going to have to be in really good shape.”
30.8Points per game for Bradenton Christian in 2016, the Panthers’ most since 2010.
77Points for Bathie Thiam in 2016, the fourth-most of any returning player in Manatee County. He scored seven touchdowns, kicked 21 extra points, drilled four field goals and scored a two-point conversion.
60.7Percentage of rushing yards Bradenton Christian lost from 2016 either to graduation or transfer.
Who’s in: Auburndale Jordan Christian Prep, Fort Myers Gateway Charter, Tampa Carrollwood Day, Clearwater Academy International
Who’s out: Fort Myers Southwest Florida Christian Academy, Deltona Trinity Christian Academy, St. Petersburg Keswick Christian, St. Petersburg Canterbury
Upgrade: As an independent, Bradenton Christian doesn’t have to worry about playoff points, so an overturned schedule leaves uncertainty, especially with a first-year coach.
Blake Battle, Jr., QB/S
A transfer from Manatee, Battle should start at one of the safety positions and contribute as a change-of-pace athlete to use at quarterback in certain packages.
Games at 7:30 p.m. unless noted.
at Jordan Christian Prep
Zephyrhills Christian Academy
at Out-of-Door Academy*
Carrollwood Day, 7 p.m.
at Saint Stephen’s*, 7 p.m.
Clearwater Academy International
*-Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay division game
Southwest Florida Christian Academy
Zephyrhills Christian Academy
Trinity Christian Academy
SSAC Coral League playoffs
Christ’s Church Academy