High School Football

Saint Stephen’s seeks its third SSAC title in a row. He’s a big reason for Falcons’ success

Saint Stephen’s junior lineman Dylan Davis is focused on leading Saint Stephen’s to its third consecutive Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship.
Saint Stephen’s junior lineman Dylan Davis is focused on leading Saint Stephen’s to its third consecutive Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship. Herald correspondent

Saint Stephen’s football coach Tod Creneti turned to defensive line coach Steve Gulash after a play during the team’s Coral League semifinal win two weeks ago and asked whether defensive tackle Dylan Davis was offsides.

Neither could imagine another explanation for how the junior was in the opposing team’s backfield so quickly, but Davis wasn’t offsides.

This scene plays out weekly for the 10-1 Falcons, who play Orlando Christian Prep (8-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Master’s Academy in Oviedo in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference championship game.

The two-time defending SSAC champion Falcons have beaten Orlando Christian Prep both times the teams have played.

Davis, a key part of a Falcons defense that has allowed just 12 points in three playoff games this season, gives his team a good chance of winning its third consecutive state championship.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder has collected 38 tackles (19 for loss), four sacks and 16 quarterback hurries despite playing a position at which players don’t normally rack up big stats.

“He’s so explosive on the field,” Creneti said. “To do that at 260 pounds, that’s crazy. Just to see him play every week, it leaves your jaw a little slack. You’re just amazed at what you’re seeing.”

Davis experiencing this much success on the Falcons defensive line didn’t seem likely just two years ago. Although he practiced on both the offensive and defensive lines, he played only center in games. The coaching staff also thought Davis would better profile on the offensive line.

That was until his get-off — how quickly he reacts to the ball being snapped by the opposing team — caught his coaches’ attention.

Davis, who also plays left tackle, has become a dominant force after working on his get-off every day in practice, building strength and improving his technique.

“He’d make a play here and make a play there and then he would make plays in such a way that you just saw his physicality,” Creneti said. “He plays with this nasty edge. To be such a sweetheart off the field and have that kind of edge, it leaves you scratching your head.”

Davis’ skills have led to interest from the University of Central Florida, Wake Forest and a few Ivy League schools, Creneti said, though he hasn’t received any scholarship offers.

“I know coach is reaching out to some of these schools, and he’s putting me on their radars and stuff,” Davis said. “I have always just focused on my game, and I feel like that’s all I can control at this point. I trust (the offers will) come in the coming years.”

Davis isn’t concerning himself with the recruiting process. He’s more focused on Saturday’s state championship game. A win by the Falcons would give him three state titles in his first three years. That quick of a start can’t be matched by many other players.

“I’ve just tried to make sure the guys are ultra-focused and they really know what’s at stake,” Davis said. “It is so important. It’s amazing our school has been able to play at this level for a number of years now. We hope to keep it going.”