Latest Team Rankings
Free Text Alerts
|ShopMobileRadio RSSRivals.com Yahoo! Sports|
|College Teams||High Schools|
August 23, 2013
WESTON -- Everyone remembers the crushing defeat the Cypress Bay Lightning endured in the thrilling 8A state championship game last season, coming up three points short.
Apopka took the lead 53-50 with 1:29 to play, but Cypress Bay stormed back down the field in less than a minute and put themselves in scoring position. Their scoring threat ended in the end zone; a pass was tipped and intercepted by Apopka's Rakeem Smith with 34 seconds remaining.
The road back to the state championship will be long and arduous. The Lightning have to replace the offensive production from RB Matt Dayes (N.C. State) and WR Alex Montgomery (Kentucky), led by the steady hand of quarterback Jaranta Lewis, who also graduated. On defense, defensive back Nico Marley (Tulane) and safety Boaz Joseph (Nebraska) leave big shoes to fill.
The schedule presents several challenges, opening up with home games against Boyd Anderson and University School, followed by a trip to Flanagan. Four weeks later, Cypress Bay will visit St. Thomas Aquinas, then play host to Miramar the following Friday.
Head Coach Mark Guandolo, in his 30th season in coaching, feels that district 12-8A could be difficult to navigate in 2013. "It's the toughest district in the state. Miramar will be strong, Everglades and Flanagan got new staffs and I expect them to improve. Western always gets up to play us. It's going to be tough."
In preparations for the 2013 season, Guandolo told FlaVarsity he's noticed a change in his returning players' approach to offseason workouts.
"Their attitudes have been a little different. I've noticed a hunger about them," he pointed out. "Our kids are using that championship game as motivation. At Cypress Bay, our goal every year is to win a state championship, but we have a long way to go. We have to replace some of the top athletes in the state from last year, but I think in the end, we could end up being a stronger team this season."
Inserting an untested quarterback will be the biggest challenge the Lightning will face on offense in 2013. Conor Miller (6'5, 225), a junior transfer who's never taken a varsity snap, will man the controls of the Lightning's offense. Miller's confident that the talent surrounding him will make the transition easier.
"We have a talented receiving corps. Kadeem Goulbourne is by far the most talented receiver I've thrown to. I've established a trust with him, where if I'm in trouble I can throw it his way and he'll make the play," Miller said. "Chris Maxwell (6'1, 177) catches everything. His hands are amazing." Goulbourne, who's favorites are Ole Miss, Rutgers, Illinois, and Syracuse, admitted the offseason workouts have tested the mental toughness of the team.
"Our preparations were more intense. We'll continue to get better and learn from our mistakes, but we just have to learn to play as a unit and rely on each other."
Two-way starter RB/FS Marquese Dudley-Gordon will see more action from the backfield this fall. The six-foot, 190 pound athlete holds 20 offers, with Ohio State, Florida State, and Wisconsin among them. His latest Top 5 includes Pittsburgh, Arkansas, Louisville, Florida St., and Kentucky. Dudley-Gordon reports that the team has developed a family-type bond.
"In the playoffs last year, we were down 14-3 to Seminole Ridge at halftime and we decided then that we weren't going to accept that. We came back and won that game, and I think that speaks to how close we are." He's excited about what he's seeing on the Cypress Bay practice field.
"We're fast on defense. Our secondary is really quick, our front seven is looking good and strong. I'm feeling good about what we're doing on defense. On offense, I'm seeing good things there. Goulbourne and Maxwell look solid, and I feel good about what we have on that side of the ball."
Cornerback Deion Hallmon, who owns a whopping 53 offers, wants to put the team on his back in their journey back to Orlando.
"I'm going to do everything I can to get us into the championship game. My coaches and teammates are trusting me to be productive on both sides of the ball, and I'm going to do that no matter what."
Cypress Bay hired Earl Little over the offseason to run the defense. He played defensive back at the University of Miami from 1993-1996, then enjoyed nine seasons in the NFL with stops in New Orleans, Cleveland, and Green Bay. He entered high school coaching in South Florida in 2006, coaching defensive backs at Miami Central, then moving on to Dr. Krop and Cooper City.
Little discussed how the players are adapting to the new scheme.
"We have smart football players here. They've been picking everything up, they're working hard, they're adjusting, and playing fast," he said. "I think we're ready to play."
He spoke about a few of his playmakers on defense. "Hallmon has a lot talent. I believe he has the skills and attitude to be successful, he's special.
"Dudley-Gordon is another player I'm excited about, he's a grown man out there. He does everything we ask him and he does it right. He's a great kid, is a quiet leader, and brings the total package at safety.
"MLB Hunter Brown, 2015 defensive end Anthony Bennett, Danny Thomas, and there are a few others I'm excited about working with. They all have that Ray Lewis energy in their love for the game. They're great kids."
We'll find out about Cypress Bay right out of the gate. They have a nationally televised game on ESPN against American Heritage Plantation, which features three explosive weapons on offense: QB Torrance Gibson, RB Sony Michel, and WR Isaiah McKenzie. Gunadolo is excited to see how his team stacks up against elite competition.
"It's a great tune-up for the season, the game is on national television, so the intensity of practice has been amped up. I'll be looking to see how the quarterback handles the team, how many mental errors we can correct, and I'm anxious to see how we fare against some of the best athletes in the country. I don't know if we'll see a better tandem all year."
Little echoed Guandolo's sentiments about the American Heritage offense. "We have to stop the run. We have to slow Michel and be careful of Gibson taking off, he's a threat. McKenzie is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, but we're looking forward to the challenge."
After last season's result, the Lightning are looking forward to getting back on the road to Orlando. Miller stated what's on everyone's mind. "We have one goal: and that's a state championship. We want it, we expect it, and we're putting in the work to get it," he said. "Anything less will be a disappointment. It's state championship or bust, but we'll take one game at a time and we're focused on preparing for American Heritage Plantation."