Matanzas' football team won’t have a lot of seniors playing major roles this fall, but that doesn’t mean the Pirates will be young.
“We’re young no more,” said coach Matt Forrest, who is entering his third year with the Pirates. “This is a year to put up or shut up. The juniors are now upperclassmen.”
Four juniors are entering their third season as starters. Cole Hash, Sho’Marion Gaines and Jordan Mills are stalwarts on defense, while Dakwon Evans will be entering his second season as the starting quarterback.
Hash, Gaines and Mills will also play on offense, but this season they won’t be on the field all game.
“I think we’re going to have more depth than we’ve ever had,” Forrest said. “We got guys in key positions who can give us 20 to 30 plays in a backup role. That’s something we’ve never had here, and I’m excited to see that.”
Forrest said his junior defensive stars will have packages on offense, but they won’t be on the field for 70 plays on offense and 70 plays on defense.
“They’re three dynamic players on defense,” Forrest said. “Realistically, they’ll see 20 to 30 plays on offense, and that’s because we have a lot of guys who can fill in those key depth positions.”
Gaines, a safety, wouldn’t mind playing 70 plays on offense and defense.
“I plan on getting a lot of rotation on offense,” he said. “I’ll play wherever I have to, to help the team win.”
Mills, a cornerback, said the defense is balanced with ballhawks in the secondary and tough guys in the trenches.
Hash, a linebacker and part-time receiver, is coming off a third-place finish at the Class 2A state weightlifting championships in the 183-pound class. He said the strength he gained during weightlifting season has been noticeable during spring football spring drills.
“I can see the difference when I’m trying to shed a block or having to take a guard head up. It’s a lot different than last year. It comes with a lot of confidence. I think the whole team is confident.”
“I can see the difference when I’m trying to shed a block or having to take a guard head up,” Hash said. “It’s a lot different than last year. It comes with a lot of confidence. I think the whole team is confident. We know what we can do and what we can accomplish.”
Having experienced players who are starting their third year in Forrest’s system has made all the difference, the coach said.
“We haven’t had to coach our culture this spring, because our culture is established,” he said. “Guys are giving everything they got. They’re on time, they’re paying attention, they’re listening. We have guys sprinting from drill to drill. We haven’t had to teach kids to tuck their shirts in, wear the right gear, keep their helmets on and their chinstraps buckled. All that stuff is taken care of, and that’s because that’s what we’ve been preaching the last two seasons and now we are able to just coach football.”