BRADENTON -- One play had ended and another was just beginning as Tod Creneti walked toward the center of Saint Stephen's practice field Tuesday afternoon.
"Offense, how are we going to play?", asked the Falcons second-year football coach.
"Fast," the players responded.
He asked the question again.
"Fast," they repeated.
"Fast," Creneti confirmed. "We've got to be faster today than we were yesterday."
This spring at Saint Stephen's is all about progression. Last year was an introduction of sorts for Creneti, who became the team's third coach since the school brought football back as a varsity sport in 2006, and his players.
Now he wants the Fal
cons to continue to learn while being more competitive on the field.
They already a step ahead of last year's edition, which only got in about a week's worth of spring practice and did not play a game. This season, the Falcons have been working out since May 1, the first official day of spring football, and meet Imagine School of North Port 7 p.m. tonight at Palma Sola Park.
Creneti hopes the changes don't stop there.
"This spring has been a huge step for us. Our effort, our understanding, the rate of which they're absorbing information," he said, "it's all much further along. It's much more like a typical spring. We've been very uptempo in practice, we're installing things on the fly, and they're really, really responding well to that."
The Falcons went 0-8 last season, were shut out three times and gave up 35 points or more in every game.
Despite the results, most of the players from last year's team have returned this spring.
"It was really interesting, because as soon as football season ended, you would guess guys would give up," said Herman Israelsson, a rising senior and a running back, "and go back to their regular routine and go back to drinking sodas and buying Cheetos. But coach came up to us and said, 'We need to get better for next year.' He said that to everybody. ... And everybody started hitting the gym. Everybody was there."
Among the returnees are Israelsson, wide receiver/defensive backs Michael Berdusco and Cam Tally, linebacker/running back Jeremy Jackman, and linemen Bradley Beazant and Henry Bernet.
Berduso and Tally are rising seniors, and Beazant, Bernet and Jackman and will be juniors in the fall.
And all are doing something they didn't get a chance to do last spring -- practice every day while knowing a game is on the horizon.
"It adds a little more motivation and a little more purpose," Berdusco said.
It feels different, Berdusco said, and its feeling the players believe will carry over to the summer.
"We had a real young team," he said, "and last season definitely fueled us and got us ready for this year."
Now the Falcons shift their focus to improving between the lines, to being more competitive than last year. And while spring games are just exhibitions, Creneti believes the Falcons can take another step forward with a victory tonight.
"Winning a game like this slingshots us into the offseason with a lot of momentum," he said. "We have not won a game yet under my leadership, so it becomes really important that we have success and we have it quickly so our kids continue to have faith and work hard in the offseason."