We continue our 30 stops in 30 days with the Trinity Catholic Celtics of Ocala.
The bar was raised early for this young program.
Trinity Catholic's first year of varsity football was in 2002, but the Celtics have built a rich tradition in a short period of time.
Since then, one of Marion County's top football programs has had five state semifinal appearances and has won two state titles. In fact, it's been 10 years since they lost a first-round playoff game.
With five returners on defense and seven on offense, the Celtics are hoping to get back to the state title game. Trinity Catholic won the Class 2B championship in 2010 in a thrilling three-overtime game against University School of Ft. Lauderdale, 56-55.
The past two years they have come up short, falling to The First Academy in the regional finals last year and to Madison County in the state semifinals two years ago.
Quarterback Reid Carlton is back to lead the offense. Last year, Carlton threw for 1,596 yards and 18 TD's as a junior. He recently competed at the Rivals & Nike camps, and has plenty of varsity experience, so the offense appears to be in good hands with him under center.
Sophomore linebacker Marquis Hendrix (125 tackles, 17 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 INT), junior defensive back Dominique Brown (77 tackles, 2 INT, 8 passes defended) and rising freshman defensive end Jordan Woods (64 tackles, 3 sacks) will lead the defense. Hendrix and Brown were Rivals & Nike camp invitees, while Woods was named to the MaxPreps Freshman All-American team last fall.
"So far this spring has been productive," said Associate Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Justin Wentworth. "The players have all been enthusiastic about what we are putting together. We hope to see this continued throughout the spring practices."
Trinity Catholic, which has qualified for the playoffs the past two years by default in a two-team district, will now compete in Class 3A-District 2 with Daytona Beach Father Lopez, Tallahassee Maclay and Gainesville PK Yonge.
A regular season championship is not a foregone conclusion, but the Celtics usually have their eyes set on more than just a district title.
"If we can stay healthy, this team has a chance to be special," said head coach John Brantley, who is now 50-14 in five seasons.
The Celtics, who open the regular season with their first out of state game at Calvert Hall High School in Maryland, will host Wakulla in their spring game on Thursday, May 23, at 6 p.m.