The Matanzas football team won’t have many seniors playing major roles this fall, but that doesn’t mean the Pirates will be young.
“We’re not young anymore,” said coach Matt Forrest, entering his third year with the Pirates. “This is a year to shut up or shut up. Juniors are now upper classes.
Four juniors are entering their third season as starters. Cole Hash, Sho’Marion Gaines and Jordan Mills are mainstays on defense, while Dakwon Evans will enter his second season as a starting quarterback.
Hash, Gaines and Mills will also play on offense, but this season they won’t be on the court the entire game.
“I think we’re going to have more depth than we’ve ever had,” Forrest said. “We have guys in key positions who can give us 20-30 games in a substitute role. It’s something we’ve never had here, and I’m glad to see it.
Forrest said his junior defensive stars will be forfeited on offense but will be out of the field for 70 games on offense and 70 on defense.
“They’re three dynamic players on defense,” Forrest said. “In reality, they’ll see 20-30 plays on offense, and that’s because we have a lot of guys who can fill those key positions in depth.”
Gaines, a safety, wouldn’t mind playing 70 games on offense and defense.
“I plan to have a lot of rotation in attack,” he said. “I will 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 part-time linebacker and receiver, just finished third in the Class 2A State Weightlifting Championships in the 183-pound class. He said the strength he gained during the weightlifting season was noticeable during the spring football spring drills.
“I can see the difference when I’m trying to get off a block or having to take a head-up guard. It’s very different from 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 get off a block or having to take a head-up guard,” Hash said. “It’s very different from 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 entering 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. “The guys are giving it their all. They’re on time, they pay attention, they listen. We have guys running from exercise to exercise. We haven’t had to teach the kids to tuck in their shirt, to wear the right gear, to keep their helmets on and to buckle their chinstraps in. All of that is taken care of, and that’s because that’s what we’ve been preaching for the past two seasons and now we can just train football.