Pat Brown is entering his fourth season as Seabreeze's head football coach. Last year, he led the Sandcrabs to a district championship and their first playoff appearance in eight years.
In the offseason, 2,000-yard passer Blake Boda transferred to Cocoa. So, they entered preseason practice, which began on Aug. 1, looking for a new starting quarterback.
Brown talked about the quarterback competition, a familiar face who will be coaching the defensive line and closing the gap with Mainland.
What was the team's summer highlight?
This summer, we actually got denied on being able to go out of state for a college tour. But like anything, when the negatives happened, we flipped it to make sure it turned out to be a positive. That's the optimistic mindset. So we really honed in on using these seven weeks of strength and conditioning to get bigger, stronger and faster.
And I know coaches love to spew that terminology. But we have a college-level strength and conditioning program that we've been relying on for the past three years, and that has been a huge component of our turn-around so quickly, being able to get our kids more durable, so we don't have a lot of big injuries. We had, I think, one season-ending injury since I've been here. This spring ended up being two in the past four years.
And as well as getting some of our guys developed quicker, we've been building up our team chemistry. We did a couple of 7 on 7s and we did the FCA team camp, which was huge for us from a camaraderie standpoint.
Who are the candidates for starting quarterback?
We've got three guys at the position currently. Zeli Hayworth transferred from FPC. He's a junior, about 6-foot-1, 190, 195. He's the most physically ready one. He came in the summer. He's the oldest one. We have Hayden Hayes, who's a sophomore and started for us on JV last year. He suited up and played in a couple of games with varsity. And then Cole Walker is an incoming freshman. And we still have, obviously, Sosa Gonzalez, who started at receiver for us last year but came to us as a quarterback. He's still doing some quarterback reps as well, in case of injury or anything like that.
So, one of the candidates is an incoming freshman, and he's in the mix already?
It's an open competition. We want to continue to evaluate everybody. Obviously, it's tough for freshmen, physically, to get on the varsity field, but we've thrown freshmen into the fire every year. Last year, two of our best players, and the two highest-ranked recruits in the 2025 class for us, Khamani Robinson and Denali Campbell, started as freshmen. They worked throughout the summer, closed that gap physically and mentally and continued to get better.
What's the strength of the team heading into preseason?
One of the strengths I would say from the offensive side would be our O-line. I mean, out of the seven varsity O-linemen six have been there 100% of the time for the summer workouts. We've got a couple of 300-pounders up there. But our biggest strength I would say is our team chemistry. Everybody that has been there is truly locked in and bought in. And our best players are also our most mentally disciplined.
What areas will you be looking to improve in preseason?
Just trying to fast track some of the guys playing on a varsity field for the first time, that process with the speed of the game and the ability to adapt. There's no better teacher than actual physical reps. In the 2022 class that just graduated, we had a lot of quality players, a lot of three-year starters. We had 17 graduate, and we actually had two juniors graduate early. We did a good job of rotating guys, but it's different when you're the second-string guy. So, we're trying to expedite that process to make sure that they're ready to rock when the season comes around.
The Sandcrabs won a district title for the first time in a long time. What's the next step?
Obviously, the minimal goal is repeating. But we want to make a deep playoff push. Everybody says a state championship. But you have to continue to get better, and you have to stay healthy. Last year, was our first time being in the true playoffs since 2014. So, the next step for us is not just being happy with being in the playoffs, but now that we're gonna be in a playoff, it's making a playoff push and getting out of that first round and building it from there. Because once you get that first W, you get over the nerves.
Which players have made the greatest strides since last season?
Michael Shropshire, defensive tackle, number 99. I think he was honorable mention all-area as a sophomore last year, which is really good for an interior D-lineman, because they don't get a lot of praise. He definitely got way stronger and quicker.
Sam Gonzalez, we call him Sosa, moved fully to receiver last year and now he's able to hone in on the details of the position, and he's getting better at it every day. A lot of people think you can throw an athlete in at receiver and they will have success. And it's like, no, there's a lot of technique that goes into receiver. So, he's been buying into the position and truly working on his craft and fine-tuning that.
And I have to add our sophomores, Denali Campbell and Khamani Robinson. They're both going to play multiple positions. They both played some running back last year, they both played some defensive back. So we're going to move them around a couple of different ways.
And I definitely got to give credit to our O-line. The senior of that group is Kelon Tennant. Like I said, all of our O-linemen are really doing a good job this offseason. The bigger boys are really grinding and getting in better shape. The smaller guys are getting stronger. But Kelon Tennant is a leader of that group. He's one of two seniors and he keeps the other guys focused. Every group needs leadership, and he provides it.
Yes, (Kerry Kramer) is coming out of retirement to be our new defensive line coach. He just wants to help support and build the program. Having a head coach on your staff who's been a big part of Seabreeze over the last 30-plus years, we're definitely very fortunate.
— PAT BROWN
So, former head coach Kerry Kramer is back with the Sandcrabs?
Yes, he's coming out of retirement to be our new defensive line coach. D-line is his baby. We always had kept in contact. He was a big part of (the team) when I first came to Seabreeze. He just wants to help support and build the program. Having a head coach on your staff who's been a big part of Seabreeze over the last 30-plus years, we're definitely very fortunate.
Last year, your team passed for more than twice as many yards as it ran. With a first-year starter at quarterback is that stat likely to change?
You know, (offensive coordinator Matt Johnson) would love to have more of a balanced look, and that's going back to college. Last year, we assessed our situation and where we were at with our wide receivers and our O-line position, and we had to be more of a passing team to be successful. This year, we could be a legit 50-50. And depending on the week, we might pass a little bit more or we might run a little bit more, but really we'll be more balanced this year.
Seabreeze and Mainland were in different districts last year. Does the game become more important with a possible district title on the line?
The COVID year, we were 3-0 in district play and played them for the district championship. And even my first year, a couple weeks before we had Mainland, we had New Smyrna Beach and we lost that game, but had we won, we would have been playing Mainland for the district championship. Obviously, Deltona is in the mix too. You've got to respect Coach (Jeff) Smothers, as he runs a great program. And Pine Ridge has a new coach. But it does give (the Mainland game) a sense of urgency. It's for the district championship, and it's a rivalry game. But none of that should make you have to get up for that game.
Your team lost 35-22 to the Bucs last year. Do you feel like the ’Crabs closed the gap between the two programs?
We felt like we could have won the game, and everybody who was at the game understands that. One play flipped (in the final minute of the first half) and we couldn't recover from that. So, as coaches we've got to do a better job of having our kids ready for adversity. But we were about to go up 21-20 and the strip play made it a 14-point flip. (Seabreeze was driving inside the Mainland 5-yard line when Mainland's Kalyb Evans stripped the ball and ran 97 yards for a touchdown). We couldn't recover from that. So, as coaches we just got to get our kids better adjusted for that adversity to be able to handle that. But it was a dogfight the whole game.
Other than Mainland, what stands out on your schedule?
Our schedule is pretty much the same, except we added Bartram Trail. They have a great program. But we always play up. We play (Spruce) Creek, we play DeLand, play University. So, those are three are bigger schools than us. My first year it was more or less playing these teams to see where we were at. Now, we're playing these teams to beat these teams. Now we're planning to keep these county rivalries going and see who's the best in the county.