NO. 12 KATHLEEN RED DEVILS
2016: 5-5, 2-2 in 7A District 7
Last Playoff Appearance: 2015, Lost in the Regional Quarterfinals to Plant 35-24
Head Coach: Irv Strickland, 64-44, entering 11th season
WR Reggie Brown (305 YDS, 2 TD), QB/FS Brendan Gant (23 TKL, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 Defensive TD), DE Jaaron Jackson (55 TKL, 5 TFL, 5 Sacks), DE Jerry Rich (40 TKL, 4 TFL), WR Dominique Walker, RB Malik Williams (488 Yards, 2 TD)
Kathleen made some big changes to their offense for 2017. Junior Brendan Gant converted from safety to quarterback, a position he hasn’t played since 8th grade. Rivals has him ranked as a 4-Star safety. Last year’s signal caller, Dominique Walker moved to receiver. Coach Strickland said “I seen he wasn’t comfortable. He was just too nervous and didn’t want to make a mistake and now he said ‘I can just play.’” He also posed the question of where Walker could get into a college at QB at 5’9”. Kathleen also returns their leading rusher from a year ago, Malik Williams.
The Red Devils only lost 16 seniors and will feature a ton more experience than in 2016. One key loss is 3-star linebacker Ventrell Miller. However, Coach Strickland says the linebackers don’t have any excuses with four defensive linemen returning. Going 5-5, the Red Devils are out to prove they are more than an “average” team.
Quotable: “I think I’ve got the best D-Line in the state. I’ve got some big boys down there that’s hungry. The two interior tackles are 600 pounds together.” – Irv Strickland on strength of the team and tackles Jerry Rich (265lbs) and Dadrion James (345lbs)
Preseason: Lake Wales
Game 1: @Vanguard
Game 2: Lake Gibson
Game 3: Ridge Community
Game 4: @Central (Phenix City, AL)
Game 5: Auburndale
Game 6: Winter Haven
Game 7: @Sebring
Game 8: @Bartow
Game 9: Lehigh (fort Myers)
Game 10: @Lakeland
Kathleen is sick of being left out of the Polk County playoff party.
“It’s long overdue, said head coach Irv Strickland, entering his 11th season.
“Our expectations this year, every kid. We wanna get to Orlando. You know we’ve seen Lake Gibson do it. We’ve seen Lakeland do it. We’ve seen other teams make it. We’ve seen Victory do it. We just think it’s our chance. It’s our time right now and we’ve got a lot of kids in place that we feel like we can do that.”
But a few kids are out of place. Players in new positions, including quarterback.
“It’s tough,” said junior quarterback Brendan Gant, who is a four-star safety according to Rivals. “ It’s tough, but I’m coming along. Been coming along for a minute. I feel like when it’s time to go, I’ll be ready.”
The safety turned quarterback, Gant is under center for the first time since 8th grade. Last year’s QB Dominique Walker moved receiver.
“Like coach said not too long ago, I gotta be that motor and get everyone going,” said Gant.
“I said the biggest thing you gotta understand, we don’t need you to try and win ball games,” said Strickland. “ Just manage the offense, be consistent and get the ball to your playmakers.”
One said playmaker, Kathleen’s leading rusher from a year ago, Malik Williams.
“Let’s work on the small things and get better,” said Williams. “When you master the small things you become bigger and a champion team.”
3-Star linebacker Ventrell Miller is gone to Gainesville. But that core should still be able to make plays with four returners on the D-line.
“I think I’ve got the best D-line in the state,” said Strickland. “I’ve got some big boys down there (Jerry Rich and Dadrion James) that’s hungry. The two interior tackles are 600 pounds together.”
“We’ve gotta stick to the blue print,” said defensive end Jaaron Jackson. “ If we stick to the blue print and do what we’re coached to do, do what we’re taught to do, then we’ll be where we want to be
What’s that blue print?
“Definitely fast physical relentless defense and on offense put up as many points as we can,” said Jackson.