After the first two games were cancelled due to inclement weather (including one due to Hurricane Hermine), the Farragut football team will finally open its season when the BlueJackets battle Southwest Florida Christian Academy on Friday, September 9, at 7:00 p.m. in Fort Myers.
“It’s been frustrating having to wait but we are excited about finally getting out there,” BlueJackets junior lineman Sam Baker said.
The BlueJackets, who will dress 27 players to open the season, had been scheduled to play against perennial powers Trinity Catholic and Tampa Catholic but will now play an abbreviated schedule of eight games with just two conference contests.
Like last season, when Farragut competed in the three-team Class 2A-6 District, the BlueJackets will battle Indian Rocks Christian and Northside Christian for two playoff spots.
Farragut will face Indian Rocks on September 30 in an away contest before hosting Northside on October 28 in the last regular season game for both teams.
Last year, the BlueJackets beat Indian Rocks in a 42-41 thriller before narrowly escaping with a 37-32 victory against Northside. They advanced to the Class 2A Region Finals, where they suffered a heartbreaking 36-32 loss to Cambridge Christian.
BlueJackets to watch
Position: Offensive line/defensive line
Height/weight: 6-7, 225
Jeremiah primarily was a basketball player when he arrived two years ago. Soon, though, football came calling. Jeremiah, who is ranked in the top 50 players in the Tampa Bay Times Top 100 rankings, has received multiple offers from schools, including Louisville, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Rutgers.
“Jeremiah has developed into an incredibly gifted player,” Hearn said. “He has used the athleticism from basketball to his advantage on the football field. He’s certainly impressed college coaches and he’s done a remarkable job for us.”
He played a portion of the season during his sophomore year and then started at defensive end in his junior year, although he recorded just six tackles and four sacks.
He will be used on the offensive side of the ball this year, as well, lining up at left tackle, more so due to the lack of numbers for the BlueJackets.
Position: Quarterback/defensive back
Height/weight: 6-0, 160
Keondrae assumes the role under center after the BlueJackets lost the services of Austyn Causey, who transferred back to St. Petersburg following a junior season in which Causey threw for nearly 2,000 yards. While Causey started a majority of the games (missing three due to injury), Keondrae played quarterback in some of every contest, starting the three games Causey was hurt.
“Keondrae has the ability to make our offense dynamic in different ways due to his running ability,” Hearn said. “He will be exciting to watch.”
Keondrae threw for 590 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception while running for 155 yards and a touchdown. To improve on his skills, he competed with teammates Marquise Lambert and Khalan Tolson during the summer for Team Florida, an AAU football squad that participated in the Junior Olympics.
Miller will also provide help on defense at free safety. Last season, he played both safety and cornerback, recording two interceptions. Ranked in the top 100 players in the Times’ poll, he has received collegiate offers from schools like Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Bowling Green, Southern Miss, and Toledo.
Other skill players to watch:
- O’shon Allen ‘17, running back, cornerback, 5-6, 155
- Marquis Lambert ‘18, wide receiver, free safety, 5-10, 160
- Khalan Tolson ‘18, running back, outside linebacker, 6-0, 205
- Zion Roland ‘18, wide receiver, free safety, 6-0, 180
- Kashish Cordova ‘19, backup quarterback, 5-10, 155
- Alex Fiorillo ‘19, kicker, 5-9, 120
The Offensive Line
Sam Baker ‘18 is the lone starter returning to the line but the third-year varsity member anticipates having similar results as last year. Sam, who played on the left side of the line last season, was a main cog to a unit that helped produce close to 3,000 passing yards, 2,300-plus rushing yards, and 56 combined touchdowns. This season, Sam will take over at right tackle while Jeremiah Zio and John Waller ‘18 will alternate at left tackle. Ashton Taylor ‘17 (right guard), Corey Luckenbill ‘17 (center), and Harrison Woliver ‘18 (left guard) round out the rest of the line.
“We played together in various formations last season so we should be alright,” said Sam, who recently received collegiate offers from Bowling Green, Louisville, and South Florida.
Despite having just one starter from last season, Hearn is excited about the prospects of this line, which has an average height of 6-feet-4 and an average weight of 280 pounds.
“They all played significant minutes last season and they all are athletic for their size,” Hearn said. “They best part is they have great endurance, which we will need considering we won’t be able to rotate guys in and out.”
Corey Luckenbill will start for the first time in his three-year career with the BlueJackets. Corey, who is legally blind, has played football since he was four-years-old.
“It’s exciting but I’m not getting too emotional about it because I’ve been playing the sport so long,” said Corey, who was born with stationary cone dystrophy, a congenital eye disease that affects the cone cells in the retina. “I’m more nervous about facing some of the bigger guys on a consistent basis.”
Corey, who has always played center, began playing for his dad, Kraig, at an early age and gradually developed into a quality lineman, although there were some missteps.
“There was this one time when I turned from the huddle and rushed up to the ball and got lost,” joked Corey, who has 20/400 vision. “The quarterback had to grab my jersey and pull me back and over to where the ball was.”
Since arriving at Farragut from Tarpon Springs High, Corey has become one of the more popular cadets on campus due to his signature Oakley sunglasses, which he wears due to the extreme sensitivity to light.
“Corey is a very likable person,” Hearn said. “He has also demonstrated the knack for playing the position and has done extremely well at it. It is a great thing for him to have done so well.”
Going For Gold
Over the summer, Marquise Lambert ‘18, Keondrae Miller ‘18, and Khalan Tolson ‘18 competed for Team Florida, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) football team. The three juniors, who will play instrumental roles on the Farragut defense this season, capped the AAU season by earning a silver medal at the Junior Olympics in Houston where approximately 15,000 youth athletes competed in the largest national multi-sport event in the United States.
“It was an incredible event with some impressive athletes from all over the country,” said Khalan, who is in his third year at Farragut. “The entire summer was great because I really matured as a football player and as a person.”
The 7-on-7 football portion was added to the AAU Junior Olympics for the first time this year, which happened to be the 50th anniversary of the games. Team Florida lost to Team Texas in the finals in a double-elimination tournament after having beat Texas in a previous round.
“It was tough because we knew we could win but it was a great learning experience,” said Khalan, who will be the starting outside linebacker this season.
In addition to the three Farragut players, the team was comprised of athletes from Boca Ciega, Clearwater Central Catholic, Indian Rocks Christian, Lakewood, and St. Petersburg. The program was founded by B.J. Hall, a former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback who grew up in St. Petersburg.
Hearn knows every possession counts for a team playing low on numbers. Thus, he made it a mission to find himself a kicker from other sports last year. Predictably, he found himself one on the soccer field.
“I went out to some practices and some games and the starting goalie stood out more than anyone else,” Hearn said.
While being diminutive in size, Alex Fiorillo ‘19, who is 5-9 but weighs a shade over 120, has made several field goals from around 45 yards out during practice.
“I’ve been working on my strength over the summer so I’m confident now kicking from distance,” said Alex, who will continue to play soccer for the BlueJackets once the season starts in November.
Although a newcomer to the sport, Alex appreciates how welcoming the team has been.
“At first, it was pretty intimidating because all the guys are so big, but they made me feel comfortable,” Alex said. “They joke with me now and say, ‘Oh, here comes the kicker. Watch out.’ But in all seriousness, it’s been fun and I’m excited about playing in my first game.”