Spectrum Sports Top 20: No. 13 - St. Petersburg

By Chris Torello, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Saturday, August 05, 2017, 5:00 PM EDT

No. 13 – ST. PETERSBURG GREEN DEVILS

2016: 8-2, Runner-Up in 7A District 10

Head Coach: Joe Fabrizio, 75-42 in 12 seasons

Key Returners: RB/LB Deshawn Brown (588 rushing yards, 5 total TD), DL Mathias Boyd (47 TKL, 4 TFL), DL Fernando Cofield (22 TKL, 1 sack), WR/DB Anthony Johnson Jr. (42 TKL, 6 INT), WR/DB Jalynn Williams (1,192 total yards, 10 total TD; 3 INT)

The Scoop: Joe Fabrizio has had some talent in his 12 seasons at St. Pete High. But one could argue that this 2017 team could be among the top groups he has ever coached. The Green Devils spoke with Spectrum Sports about how an 8-2 season in 2016 was respectable, but by no means acceptable. Last season, the team had Austyn Causey back from Admiral Farragut. He and Matthew Landers (Georgia) connected for seven touchdowns. Add in the loss of Adul Yates Jr. (Bethune Cookman), who also had seven receiving touchdowns, and only eight of the 22 receiving TDs are from current players. Landers and Yates also combined for 1,179 of the teams 1,785 receiving yards. This big void on offense now rests on the shoulders of several playmakers: like future Florida Gator Jalynn Williams, captain Deshawn Brown, and Iowa State-commit Anthony Johnson Jr. Fabrizio prides himself on the Wing-T offense. He believes that it will help this team use the entire field to show off its athleticism. “This is what we do,” said Fabrizio. “When it comes time to play for real, we will be ready to go.”

With so much talk about the offense, it’s easy to forget about the other side of the ball. “Our defense played very well last season,” said Fabrizio. Two big reasons came in the form of Larrie McCall and Aaron McGriff Jr., who combined for 15 sacks. In fact, the Green Devils are losing their top five sacks leaders from 2016. Their top returner for sacks is Jalynn Williams, who had one sack last season. The good news is their top two defensive backs are here for one more year: Johnson Jr. led the team with six interceptions, while Williams had three. Those two had nine of the team’s 13 INT in 2016.

One thing that the players want to accomplish more than anything is a deep playoff run for their head coach. Joe Fabrizio has led some impressive teams to the playoffs. But this group wants to be the one to push him over the top.

“Coach makes this place about family,” said Brown. “He recruits other coaches who want to come here and help make us all feel like we are one big family working together. We see how hard the coaches work and we want to work just as hard.”

St. Pete is not scared of any of the teams they play this season and are not worried about the FHSAA playoff changes that will mostly affect the larger classes (5A-9A). The Green Devils are fast, confident, and down-right scary in shirts and shorts. If their athleticism can translate into execution in pads, then Pinellas County’s best chance at a state title could be off of 5th Ave. North in St. Pete.

Quotable: “Last year shocked me how much we had to work to gel as a team. We had a ton of talent and we figured it out a little too late. We are all set this season.”

 - Anthony Johnson Jr.

2017 Schedule

8/25 vs. Largo

9/1 at Lakewood

9/8 vs. Boca Ciega

9/15 at Seminole

9/22 vs. Gibbs

9/28 at Pinellas Park

10/13 vs. Countryside

10/20 at East Lake

10/27 at South Sumter

11/3 vs. Braden River

When you have the type of talent that St. Pete has, it’s easy to be jealous.

“We had such a loaded team last year, a couple guys didn’t get to stand out,” said senior corner back Anthony Johnson Jr. “This year people will be asking who some of these guys are when they play.”

But when you look at the Green Devils’ recent playoff history, it’s anything but envious.

Last season, St. Pete fell to Tampa Bay Tech in its first playoff game: a 48-45 double -overtime heartbreaker.

The Green Devils haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, but this year, the talk isn’t just winning one postseason game.

“If we can stay healthy and keep our starters on the field, we have as good a chance as anyone to win a state championship,” said head coach Joe Fabrizio.

“For us, we have way too much talent to not succeed,” said team captain Deshawn Brown. “It has to be a state title for us – it just has to be.”

The  athleticism of future Gator Jalynn Williams and Iowa State-commit Anthony Johnson will lead the way, but this season may just come down to the performance of St. Pete’s new quarterback, sophomore Tonio Shavers.

“We have put him in a position to succeed,” said Johnson. “He is young, he’s getting there. If he just puts the ball in the playmakers’ hands we will be just fine.”

The talent will turn a lot of heads, but St. Pete doesn’t just want to run circles around competition, they want to do backflips deep into the playoffs.