FORT LAUDERDALE - We continue our 30 stops in 30 days with one of the top football programs in the nation - St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Raiders have won seven state titles, including two mythical national championships, made 23 consecutive playoff appearances and have won 83 playoff games.
Most of that occurred under legendary coach George Smith, who compiled a 361-66 record in 34 seasons. Smith retired and was replaced by defensive coordinator Rocco Casullo in 2011.
It didn't take long for Casullo to restore the Raiders to national prominence.
Last year, St. Thomas Aquinas stunned Manatee, then the #1 team in the country, 35-18, in the state semifinals to advance to the Class 7A state championship game. They defeated Tallahassee Lincoln for the crown. It was their 7th state title in school history, but first under Casullo.
The Raiders will be loaded with talent again in 2013.
A total of five starters will return on offense, including highly recruited wide receiver Corey Holmes, three-star running back Madre London, dual-threat quarterback Wade Freebeck, and offensive linemen Nick Linder and Ryan Crozier - all from the Class of 2014.
Running back Deltron Sands, wide receiver Devante Peete and offensive lineman Philip Parchmeant are rising offensive stars from the Class of 2015, along with lineman Nick Bosa ('16) on the defensive side.
A total of three starters will return on defense, including four-star defensive tackle Anthony Moten. The six-foot-4, 279-pound prospect is a recent Florida commit.
Plus, three-star cornerback Al Harris, Jr., will man the secondary. Harris is the son of NFL cornerback Al Harris, who played in the NFL for 14 seasons, including seven with the Green Bay Packers.
That kind of talent makes for some heated competition during the spring.
"The spring has been very competitive with many position battles," said Casullo, who has gone 23-5 in his two seasons. "There's been great intensity!"
The Raiders close the spring with the Blue vs. Gold game on Thursday, May 23, at 6 p.m.
They will open up the 2013 season on Friday, August 31, against South Florida power Miami Northwestern.