AP NEWS

2016 high school football team preview capsules

August 25, 2016 GMT

American Heritage

Coach:Keith Hindsley, second season

Starters returning:3 offense, 3 defense

Big man on campus:Lanky defensive end and tight end Noah Curtis transferred from Palm Beach Lakes to Heritage in the offseason, and he will be a commanding presence on the Stallions’ line. Curtis, No. 9 on the PBGametime Big Board, named Central Florida, North Carolina and Arkansas among his college leaders.

Outlook:Coming off two straight appearances in the Class 3A state title game, the Stallions are poised for another run. The Heritage defense should be among the best in the county, large school or small school. The secondary features two of the best corners in the area: Arkansas commit Jarques McClellion (No. 6 on the PBGametime Big Board) and Josh Turner (No. 25). The Stallions also have two recent transfers bolstering their front seven. Curtis, a first-team All-Area pick at Palm Beach Lakes last year, will be a force coming off the edge for Heritage; Mike Morris, a FSU commit who was a second-team pick as a freshman last year at Cardinal Newman, will be a major player opposite Curtis. The offense, despite losing Small Schools Player of the Year Devin Singletary, should be strong once again; quarterback Cameron Smith will begin his junior year with a season of experience under his belt, and Alec Sinkfield (No. 16) will take the bulk of Singletary’s carries.

Atlantic

Coach:Tavarius Jackson, fourth season

2015 record:12-1, lost in 8A regional final

Starters returning:3 offense, 3 defense

Big man on campus:Marquis Waters has transferred between Village Academy and Atlantic, but now he’s back with the Eagles to finish his high school career. With Village Academy last season, he ran for 950 yards and 13 touchdowns while making 40 tackles and an interception on defense.

Outlook:The Eagles looked dominant last season before Pembroke Pines-Flanagan dismantled them in the regional finals. Atlantic should have a strong defense yet again, but how far they go in a deep 8A region will likely depend on its offense. The four top running backs the Eagles used to run over opponents – Jerrod Ferguson, Dontavius Monroe, Shawndarrius Phillips and Lamar Washington – all graduated. Replacing them in the backfield is senior Roy Bennett while Corey Gammage, Cadarius Gaskin and Lamar Brewster anchor the receiving corps. The defense should be solid yet again, with top defensive backs Waters and Datrone Young (No. 22) leading the way. Jackson is also high on senior linebacker Jaquell Parrish, who he thinks is poised for a bigger breakout season after leading the team in tackles last year.

Benjamin

Coach:Ron Ream, 36thseason

2015 record:1-9

Starters returning:8 offense, 8 defense

Big man on campus:Palm Beach Central transfer Jordan Travis takes over under center for the Bucs. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound dual-threat quarterback looks like “the real deal,” according to Ream.

Outlook:The Bucs have a lot of room to make up this season after finishing 2015 with the worst record in school history. But despite last season’s struggles and some offseason transfers, Ream is hopeful Benjamin can rebound. The team returns most of its starters after starting five freshmen and six sophomores last season. The Bucs expect Lukas Lasher to return to full strength after dealing with an injured ankle last year; he will receive the bulk of the carries on offense and play outside linebacker on defense. Ream is also hopeful that transfers J.D. Weiner, a junior linebacker, and Kai Rosado, a sophomore wide receiver, will play key roles this year.

Berean Christian

Coach:Brad Carney, sixth season

2015 record:8-2, third place in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference

Starters returning:7 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Kasey Montrois will be one of the Bulldogs’ biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball. The senior will likely get the bulk of the carries at running back after leading the team in rushing last season and will anchor the team’s secondary.

Outlook:Berean Christian’s offense has a lot of yards to make up for this season, as senior quarterback Chris Mauck, a first-team All-Area pick, and top receivers Daniel Pinkerman and Keilon Stube have all graduated. But coach Brad Carney is confident his group this season can pick up where they left off. Mauck’s old position is up for grabs, with backup Brenden Shipley and Cardinal Newman transfer Lachlan Poor competing for the starting job. Carney said he expects senior Nick Doucette, who led the team with 10 receiving touchdowns, to fill the void at receiver with help from 6-foot-1, 170-pound senior Romeire Morgan. In the secondary, Montrois leads the way with a team high six interceptions last year. On the defensive line, 290-pound tackle David Combs returns after racking up four sacks and six tackles for loss last season.

Boca Raton

Coach:Eric Davis, third season

2015 record:9-3, lost in 8A regional semifinals

Starters returning:5 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Stanley Bullard, despite measuring just under 6-foot, had a strong spring game after leading Boca Raton in tackles last year.

Outlook:The Bobcats have a lot to live up to this season. After a 4-6 campaign in Davis’ first season, they improved to 9-3 and made it to the regional semifinals. Now that his team is expected to win, Davis thinks they can live up to the hype. While the Bobcats don’t boast the sheer talent that district rival Atlantic does, they have solid players as well. The coaching staff has not settled on a quarterback yet; last year’s backup Brandon Norman had a strong spring game, but American Heritage transfer Micah Leon has the size advantage and has drawn rave reviews from Davis. Despite losing receiver Shermar Moore, who transferred to a high school in Tennessee, the other skill players such as Willie Thurman and Predner Elmon, are solid. Bullard returns to lead the linebackers after leading the team in tackles last year, and defensive end Amos Pullum may have a breakout season.

Boca Raton Christian

Coach:Clay Shiver, sixth season

2015 record:7-4, fourth place in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference

Starters returning: 5 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Freshman Kevin Cline is the literal big man on campus. The brother of a Texas A&M tight end and son of a former NFL lineman, Cline measures in at 6-foot-4 and 285 pounds. Shiver said despite his size, Cline moves very well and has interest from college programs.

Outlook:Boca Raton Christian fields one of the smallest teams in the county, with only about 20 players expected to make the roster this season and nearly all of them expected to play both ways. Sophomore Giacomo Fabiani takes over for quarterback Ryan Rhoden this season, and Shiver said he has been a “tremendous surprise.” Shiver said he is excited to see Fabiani play but added the sophomore needed to work on his decision-making. Jonathan Wheeler, who spent much of last season on the offensive and defensive line, will be a prime target for Fabiani after developing his talents at tight end. Austin Smith will do a little bit of everything for the Blazers, including playing receiver, defensive back and kicker.

Boynton Beach

Coach:Errick Lowe, second season

2015 record:5-6

Starters returning:7 offense, 7 defense

Big man on campus:The Tigers picked up a major transfer in the offseason, as one of Atlantic’s top defensive backs, George Hunter, joined the Boynton team. Hunter, who is No. 15 on the PBGametime Big Board, was a first-team All-Area pick after racking up 87 tackles, three interceptions and three sacks.

Outlook:The Tigers had a down year after star quarterback Lamar Jackson graduated, but there is enough talent on this Boynton Beach team to get them back into the playoffs. Quarterback Jacob Mullally got off to a hot start as a junior before suffering a back injury that ended his season. The mobile signal-caller has weapons to throw to, as well, as Antoine Jerome returns to anchor the receiving corps. Jason Mercier will be the standout in the Tigers’ front seven, while Hunter and Endrickson Boucher will lead a secondary that could be among the county’s best. Boucher, who transferred back to Boynton Beach after a year at Atlantic, is rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports and has offers from Arkansas, FAU and Temple, among others.

Cardinal Newman

Coach:Brian Pulaski, first season

2015 record:1-9

Starters returning:9 offense, 9 defense

Big man on campus:Carson Powell might be one of the most underrated players in the county. Pulaski said the second-team All-Area pick was the most competitive player he has ever coached.

Outlook:This season will be the second in a row with a new Crusaders coach, and there is plenty of room for improvement after Newman went 1-9 in 2015. And that ugly season will be fresh in the team’s memory, as the Crusaders have 18 of 22 starters returning. But Pulaski says the team has put last year behind them and are focused on having a turnaround year. Jayson Moschella will play on both sides of the ball and will quarterback in the team’s Flexbone triple-option offense. Two of the players expected to stand out for Newman on both sides of the ball are 6-foot-3 wide receiver and defensive back Armani Hayes and running back and linebacker Nate Grant.

Dwyer

Coach:Jack Daniels, 21stseason

2015 record:11-2, lost in 7A regional semifinal

Starters returning:N/A

Big man on campus:Cedrick Dort, a Super 11 pick, is among the best defensive backs in a Palm Beach County senior class loaded with them. Dort, who was an All-Area honorable mention last season, picked up offers from

Outlook:The Panthers may be Palm Beach County’s most well-rounded team. Dwyer is stocked with talent from top to bottom. Second-year starter and Temple commit Toddy Centeio (No. 12 on the Big Board) is healthy after an injury- and illness-shortened junior season, and he has two top targets in transfer Austin Evans and junior Oyeh Lurry-Davis. The running game should be strong, as well, led by halfback Jakairi Moses (No. 18). On defense, a linebacker corps that includes N.C. State commit Raven Saunders (No. 13), Jamal Gates (No. 23) and Emmanuel Yisrael makes for a strong front seven. Dort and junior Dequan Walker pair for a dominant safety group that will intimidate quarterbacks around the county.

Forest Hill

Coach:Jude Blessington, fourth season

2015 record:6-4

Starters returning: 8 offense, 3 defense

Big man on campus:Jordon Earle is a force on both sides of the ball. The offensive and defensive lineman, who coach Jude Blessington called the team’s “alpha,” stands tall at 6-foot-2 and 278 pounds.

Outlook:The Falcons have a lot of work to do if they want to match their 6-4 record from last season. They lost star senior Marcus Frazier, who as the team’s driver on offense, and Derrick Duggan, who transferred. But Blessington is confident Forest Hill has the ability to at least stay close to every team they play. Tajae Leslie will take the reins under center in the Falcons’ run-first offense. Blessington said the team will still look to run the ball primarily, but he is hoping the 5-foot-10 Leslie can add a new dimension to the offense. On defense, Earle will anchor the line and Dylan Brooker will hope to make an impact in the Forest Hill linebacking corps.

Glades Central

Coach:Rick Casko, third season

2015 record:9-3, lost in 4A regional finals

Starters returning:4 offense, 3 defense

Big man on campus:Quarterback James Blackman burst onto the scene as the Raiders junior quarterback last year. The lanky senior threw 24 touchdowns and only six interceptions as a junior, and has committed to Florida State.

Outlook:The Raiders had another good season under Rick Casko, but once again Miami-Washington stood in their way. But Glades Central returns several key players who will play a large role in the Raiders’ attempt to return to the state playoffs. Blackman will be the key to an offense now missing dynamic runner Ja’Kevious Vickers. Oregon State commit Quantino Allen leads a talented group of wide receivers that also includes Oxbridge Academy transfer Trey Green and Glades Day transfer Gerald Jackson. On defense, first-team All-Area selection Rodrick Martin will once again anchor the linebackers.

Glades Day

Coach:Eric Pitts, fourth season

2015 record:3-7

Starters returning:5 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Markens Pierre was a second-team All-Area pick as a junior, and he’ll be one of the big movers and shakers on both sides of the ball this season. After racking up 64 tackles and three sacks on defense last year, he’ll be the dominant force at linebacker and as a full back.

Outlook:Big changes are underway for the storied Gators program. During the offseason, Glades Day announced they would leave the FHSAA and join the Southeastern Football Conference, an independent league made up of 11 other small schools in south Florida. Pitts gave scheduling as the primary reason why the Gators made the move, saying they had a hard time finding teams of the appropriate size to play against them. The change should be beneficial as Glades Day looks to improve on their 3-7 season. In the backfield and the linebacking corps, Pierre and freshman Lorenzo Powe will carry the Gators. Powe had a solid season as an eighth grader, rushing for nearly 500 yards, and the offensive line returns brothers Casey and Colby Connell. Anthony McPhee will also be a key skill player at defensive back and wide receiver after leading the team in interceptions as an eighth grader last year.

Inlet Grove

Coach:Michael Timpson, first year

2015 record:1-8

Starters returning:N/A

Big man on campus:Frank Huggins will try to lead the wide receiving corps and make plays for the Hurricanes.

Outlook:Inlet Grove took a step forward last season, winning its first game in two years. But now the program will have to try to continue growing under its second new coach in as many seasons. Timpson brings an NFL pedigree to the program as both the head coach and athletics director. Although his players may not reach the same heights Timpson’s career did, he said he is hoping to change the team’s attitude. “Attitude and belief that we can win, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.

John I. Leonard

Coach:Kevin Fleury, third season

2015 record:4-6

Starters returning:9 offense, 10 defense

Big man on campus:Jequan Gray is one of the players Fleury is depending on to lead the Lancers to a resurgent season. Fleury said he is a “never-leave-the-field guy” and will make an impact at both safety and wide receiver.

Outlook:Entering his third season at Leonard, Fleury expects his team to make a run at a playoff spot. Doing so will be tough, with Atlantic and Boca Raton both expected to field solid teams and other district rivals looking to make a name for themselves as well. But Fleury thinks the Lancers he has now are the best group he’s had since arriving at the school. Nearly all of the starters from last year return, and Fleury thinks that will give him a leg up this season. Kai’len King will be one of the top players on the team, playing safety and running back. Jeremiah Blatch will split carries with King and play linebacker. Vitaldo David, a junior linebacker, will anchor the front seven at middle linebacker.

Jupiter

Coach:Bill Powers, second season

2015 record:0-10

Starters returning:5 offense, 5 defense

Big man on campus:At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Alex Piccirilli has the build of a big-time quarterback. As the full-time starter in his senior year, he will look to improve on the more than 1,500 all-purpose yards he racked up last year.

Outlook:Powers said he expects his second year of coaching Jupiter to be better than the first, and if the Warriors win a game, they will make good on that expectation. Powers thinks Piccirilli is the best quarterback in south Florida, and Jupiter returns three of their starting wide receivers from last year. If the Warriors are going to win this year, it will likely come on the back of their passing offense. Much of the rest of the team is young, and Powers has five new starters on the offensive line. One of those starters is Jarrett Donham, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound nose guard and tackle, who Powers hopes will make an impact on both sides of the line.

Jupiter Christian

Coach:Jim Davis, second season

2015 record:2-8

Starters returning:4 offense, 4 defense

Big man on campus:Daniel Caruso is a “big bright spot,” according to Davis. The junior is going into his second year as the Eagles’ starter, and Davis said he put 15 pounds of muscle on his frame during the offseason.

Outlook:One of the Eagles’ biggest issues last year came down to one number: roster size. By the end of last season, Jupiter Christian was fielding just over a dozen players. But this season, Davis hopes to have a roster of at least 20 players, which will give the small school some needed depth. But that depth is primarily made up of underclassmen; Davis said his team may have one senior. Jupiter Christian expects the passing game to be its main route of attack as it tries to develop an offensive line. The offense will lean on Caruso’s dual-threat ability, with the quarterback running 10 or more times per game. Caruso will look to Matt Narbone and 6-foot-5 Connor Patton to be his primary targets. Davis said he expects Kyven Higgins will anchor both the offensive and defensive lines this season.

King’s Academy

Coach:Keith Allen, second season

2015 record:4-6

Starters returning:8 offense, 9 defense

Big man on campus:Quarterback Justin Wake will be a key player for King’s Academy this season. Allen said the sophomore has added a few inches and 20 pounds to his frame since his freshman year and has adjusted to the learning curve of high school football.

Outlook:The Lions have room to improve after finishing two games under .500 last season, and Allen is hopeful they will have a better season with most of his starters from last year returning. The second-year head coach touted his trio of running backs – Will Bayonne, Jared Kirkpatrick and Dillon Larson – saying all three had stellar offseasons. In front of those running backs will be senior offensive lineman Alex Brown, who Allen said improved his footwork and gained strength. Wake will also have a solid group of receivers to throw to, as Jeremiah Scroggins, Drew Luchey and Bradley Begnoche return and have improved, according to Allen.

Lake Worth

Coach:Micah Mays, first season

2015 record:4-6

Starters returning:2 offense, 5 defense

Big man on campus:It was a tumultuous offseason for Jonathan Garvin, who transferred from Lake Worth to Oxbridge and then back again. But the first-team All-Area pick is back in a Trojans uniform and will lead their defense after racking up 93 tackles and nine sacks last season.

Outlook:Mays, a Palm Beach Lakes alumnus, takes over the Trojans this year after a disappointing 2015. Lake Worth started the season hot before dropping its final six games. Mays does not have an easy task ahead of him, as he has to replace most of his starters on offense. Mays expects Marquise Hicks and Isaac Moss, who both played on both sides of the ball last year, to have a major impact this season. Two of the team’s most talented players – Garvin and defensive back Max Marius – are on the defensive side and return for their senior seasons. In addition to their skill at their position, both players bring senior leadership to the defense.

OLYMPIC HEIGHTS

Coach:Chris Kokell, second season

2015 record:1-9

Starters returning:7 offense, 7 defense

Big man on campus:Senior wide receiver/defensive back Rubens Jerome is expected to play a key role on both sides of the ball for the Lions. He holds offers from Valdosta State and Wagner for football, and also is a talented basketball player.

Outlook:The Lions made strides last season in Kokell’s first year as coach, and hope to continue that improvement. Olympic Heights has a big junior class, and many of its 14 returning starters played extensively as sophomores last season. Experience will key for the Lions, who compete in a tough district that includes perennial power Dwyer, improving Palm Beach Lakes and last year’s runner-up Royal Palm Beach. “We look to be a fast-paced, play-hard team that flies around the field more,” Kokell said.

OXBRIDGE ACADEMY

Coach:Brendan Kent, first season

2015 record:9-3, lost in the 3A regional finals

Starters returning:7 offense, 8 defense

Big man on campus:Senior defensive tackle Tyler Williams can dominate opponents, and is expected to anchor a strong ThunderWolves’ defensive line. “He’s the reason people struggle to run on our football team,” Kent said of the Wake Forest commit.

Outlook:The ThunderWolves won the District 7-3A championship last season in their first year of FHSAA competition, and have high hopes for a repeat performance. Oxbridge will prepare for post-season play with one of the area’s toughest non-conference schedules. Opponents include state semifinalist Winter Garden-West Orange, state champion Pembroke Pines-Flanagan and talent-rich IMG Academy, among others. “Our schedule is very challenging, but it gets us ready for the playoffs,” Kent said. Experience will be key for the ThunderWolves. Fifteen starters return, among them defensive back Traivon Leonard and lineman Robert Holmes. The 6-5, 335-pound Holmes anchors a big offensive line for Oxbridge, which also will feature a talented secondary and a promising group of young linebackers.

PAHOKEE

Coach:Orson Walkes, first season

2015 record:8-3, lost in the 1A regional semifinals

Starters returning:8 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Walkes is expecting big things from senior wide receiver Tyron Arnett, who is coming off a standout season in which he caught 75 passes for 1,102 yards and 10 touchdowns. Arnett brings plenty to the Blue Devils, both on the field and off. “He’s hard-working, an excellent teammate, and he looks out for the kids in the community,” Walkes said.

Outlook:The Blue Devils have high hopes following a 2015 campaign in which they won the District 8-1A championship. Pahokee lost a pair of standouts from that team in running back McArthur Burnett and lineman Amari Angram-Boldin, but Walkes is confident in the players who are returning, among them Arnett, quarterback T.J. Smith and tight end Zatavian Morgan. Pahokee also added a pair of transfer players in brothers Akeem Dent, a sophomore defensive back, and senior wide receiver Adarius Dent. Both played at Royal Palm Beach last year. The Blue Devils’ strength should be their offensive line, which lost just one starter from last season. “I have confidence in my coaches, and I have confidence in my kids,” Walkes said.

PALM BEACH CENTRAL

Coach:Tino Ierulli, third season

2015 record:2-8

Starters returning:7 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Senior tackle Mikey Garofolo will anchor a big, physical offensive line that Ierulli considers one of the Broncos’ strengths. The 6-4, 275-pound lineman holds 16 Division I college offers.

Outlook:The Broncos struggled last season after moving to District 9-8A, winning two games overall and just one in district play. But several losses came in the waning minutes of games, and Ierulli is confident his team will get back on track in 2016. Thirteen starters return from last season, among them Garafolo and linebacker/safety Ben Panitz, who holds multiple college offers and will anchor the Broncos’ defense. Ierulli also expects a big season from running back Anthony Wynds, who rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown in Palm Beach Central’s spring game. The Broncos play a challenging district schedule, but Ierulli expects them to compete. “We have several transfer players that will be big impact players for us, and we’re very excited about the season,” he said.

PALM BEACH GARDENS

Coach:Rob Freeman, fifth season

2015 record:6-4, lost in the 8A regional quarterfinals

Starters returning:3 offense, 7 defense

Big man on campus:Senior linebacker VanDarius Cowan is Palm Beach County’s No. 1-ranked Class of 2017 recruit, and for good reason. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Alabama commit is an imposing player who can run, hit and rush the passer. He racked up 117 tackles and seven sacks as a junior.

Outlook:The Gators are coming off a district championship in 2015, and have the tools to repeat. Defense, as usual, is expected to be a strength, though the Gators also have plenty of talent on offense. Cowan is an elite linebacker, and anchors a strong defensive unit that includes three-star defensive back Amari Carter, who also is expected to play a key role on offense at wide receiver. 310-pound senior tackle Jerry Drake anchors a solid offensive line, while senior quarterback Eli Mathews, a transfer from Dwyer, brings experience and a strong arm to the position. “We expect to field a competitive team and contend for a district championship,” Freeman said.

PALM BEACH LAKES

Coach:Al Shipman, second season

2015 record:3-7

Starters returning:9 offense, 7 defense

Big man on campus:Senior quarterback Armani Edden threw for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last season in just six games, and is expected to play a key role for the Rams on offense. He has a pair of big targets in heavily recruited wide receivers Gurvan Hall and D.J. Edwards.

Outlook:Don’t be surprised if the Rams finish closer to 7-3 than 3-7. Though Palm Beach Lakes faces a tough test in defending district champion Dwyer, Shipman is confident his team will challenge for a playoff spot in 13-7A. The Rams won their final three games last season following an 0-7 start, and have had a solid off-season, making it to the semifinals of the Dolphins Academy 7-on-7 Tournament in June. Edwards is one of the area’s top receivers, and is expected to be fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery. “Our receiving corps should be pretty good,” Shipman said.

PARK VISTA

Coach:Brian Dodds, 11th season

2015 record:5-5

Starters returning:6 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Wide receiver Atorian Perry had a solid season for the Cobras in 2015, finishing with 21 catches for 343 yards and five touchdowns. Tall and athletic, the 6-foot-4 junior is expected to play a big role on offense this season.

Outlook:The Cobras’ district schedule won’t be easy, with games against Atlantic, Boca Raton and Spanish River looming. Those three teams went a combined 26-9 last season. But Park Vista will be competitive, particularly on offense. A trio of juniors return in the backfield, among them quarterback John Smith, running back Corey Cola and Perry. All three have started since they were freshmen, and Dodds expects them to continue to make an impact. Park Vista also has a big senior class, but lost two key players in lineman B.J. Etienne, who transferred to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas-Aquinas, and linebacker Zach Bernard, who moved to Boynton Beach.

ROYAL PALM BEACH

Coach:Willie Bueno, sixth season

2015 record:5-6, lost in the 7A regional quarterfinals

Starters returning:4 offense, 3 defense

Big man on campus:Senior running back/linebacker Devonte Gillins is expected to anchor the Wildcats’ defensive unit, and is a team leader on and off the field. “He’s very smart and a savvy player,” assistant coach Elton Gilkes said.

Outlook:The Wildcats finished second in District 13-7A last season, but lost three key players from that team in quarterback Josh Carr, defensive back Da’Von Brown and wide receiver Marlon Eugene. Leading the way this season are Gillins, senior wide receiver/defensive back Jacob Jean Baptiste and senior linebacker Drew Matias. They will lead a young group of returning players, many of whom will be asked to play multiple positions in order to fill needs. Versatility will be a strength for Royal Palm Beach, which shook off an 0-3 start last season to qualify for the postseason. “We hope to get into the playoffs and make some noise,” Gilkes said.

SAINT JOHN PAUL II ACADEMY

Coach:Jeff Dellenbach, first year

2015 record:7-3, lost in the Southeastern Football Conference semifinals

Starters returning:4 offense, 4 defense

Big man on campus:Senior linebacker Corey Pendergrass was the Eagles’ defensive MVP last season, and is expected to anchor the unit again this year. He also plays running back for Saint John Paul, which averaged 28.2 points last season.

Outlook:The Eagles move from independent conference play to FHSAA competition this season, and will compete in a tough district that includes state title contenders American Heritage and Oxbridge Academy. Dellenbach welcomes the challenge. “The state series is where you want to play,” he said. “I love competition, and I want the kids to grow from being competitive.” Junior quarterback Ryan Rizk (2,200 passing yards, 24 touchdowns in 2015) returns to direct a strong Eagles’ passing offense. Saint John Paul scored 34 points or more in five games last season.

SANTALUCES

Coach:Jason Bradley, third season

2015 record:3-7

Starters returning:2 offense, 3 defense

Big man on campus:Bradley considers senior wide receiver/defensive back Bradley Toussaint a sleeper recruit. The 6-foot, 170-pound Toussaint will be the Chiefs’ main option on offense, and also is expected to contribute defensively. “He has the potential to play Division I football,” Bradley said.

Outlook:The Chiefs lost their top player last season in linebacker Zach McCloud, who now plays at UM. But Bradley has confidence in the players who are returning. Santaluces has plenty of speed, with athletes who are agile and can play in space. Inexperience will be a concern, and the Chiefs will be tested in a tough district that includes a handful of playoff contenders, among them defending champion Atlantic and runner-up Boca Raton. Bradley’s goal is for his young players to grow quickly and develop early in the season. If that happens, the Chiefs hope to make things interesting down the stretch.

SEMINOLE RIDGE

Coach:James Parson, first season

2015 record:3-7

Starters returning:4 offense, 6 defense

Big man on campus:Senior defensive tackle Dyllon Lyons is a three-year starter who is expected to anchor the Hawks’ defense. “He’s one of the strongest players on our team,” Parson said of the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Lyons.

Outlook:The Hawks hope to shake off a disappointing 2015 season, and Parson is confident his team has the talent and motivation to do so. Lyons is a leader on defense, while juniors Jeremiah Brown and Justin Allie and senior Diamond Blair are playmakers on both sides of the ball. Senior Michael Adeyanju and junior Antoine Williams will battle for the starter’s role at quarterback, and Parson has confidence in both. Seminole Ridge lost 32 seniors from last year, and will carry a young team into the season. District 9-8A will be a challenge, but Parson expects the Hawks will be competitive. “We’ve improved our overall team strength, and we’ve had a smooth transition to our new staff,” he said.

SOMERSET CANYONS

Coach:Klay Smith, first season

2015 record:no record

Big man on campus:Senior wide receiver/defensive back Dylan Hirsch is expected to provide leadership on and off the field for the first-year Cougars. “We will lean on him,” Smith said.

Outlook:The Cougars are entering their first season of varsity competition, and will be spending a lot of time focusing on fundamentals. Lack of experience will be a challenge, but Smith is confident Somerset Canyons will find its footing. The Cougars will play an independent schedule in 2016, and Smith expects his players to improve with each game. “Once the season gets rolling, we’ll be good,” he said.

SPANISH RIVER

Coach:Bill Ceasar, fourth season

2015 record:5-5

Starters returning:5 offense, 8 defense

Big man on campus:Senior defensive back/wide receiver Demetrius Hirsch is poised for a big season on both sides of the ball. A playmaker who has excellent speed, he can make the difficult catch on offense while covering well on defense. “We want the ball in his hands,” Ceasar said.

Outlook:Defense will be a strength for the Sharks, who ended years of frustration in 2015 with a 5-5 performance. Spanish River must replace numerous starters on offense, among them quarterback Owen Levine (2,300 passing yards, 17 TDs) and wide receiver Robbie Geller (1,005 receiving yards, 10 TDs). A pair of sophomores – Connor Tribby and Tyron Herring - will be in the mix at quarterback this season, while Hirsch is expected to be a big target at receiver. Spanish River will be solid defensively, with eight returning starters. The Sharks compete in one of the area’s toughest districts, but Ceasar is confident his team will continue to improve. “We’re looking forward to being better than the year before,” he said.

ST. ANDREW’S

Coach:Jimmy Robertson, first year

2015 record:4-6

Starters returning:4 offense, 4 defense

Big man on campus:Junior quarterback Wyatt Ruth is expected to take over for Ben Wandoff as the starter for the Scots, who averaged 22.4 points last season.

Outlook:Robertson took over the Scots in June, and hopes to build a winning program despite a lack of recent success. Depth is a concern. Twenty-two players participated in spring practice, though Robertson is hopeful those numbers will grow in the fall. Like last year, St. Andrew’s will compete in the independent Southeastern Football Conference, which features 12 teams from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The Scots had moderate success against SFC teams last year, and hope for better results in 2016. “People that follow St. Andrew’s are going to see a huge improvement from last year to this year,” Robertson said.

SUNCOAST

Coach:Bobby May, first season

2015 record:5-6, lost in the 5A regional quarterfinals

Starters returning:5 offense, 5 defense

Big man on campus:Senior defensive end K’Jakyre Daley had a standout season in 2015, finishing with 72 tackles and 12 sacks. May expects more big numbers this year from the 6-foot-3, 215-pound three-star recruit, who has drawn offers from Oklahoma, Tennessee and Notre Dame, among others.

Outlook:The Chargers won the District 15-5A championship last season, and expect to contend again this year. In addition to Daley, who is one of the area’s top defensive players, Suncoast also will carry a handful of playmakers who will be counted on to make an impact on both sides of the ball. Athlete Josh Powell will play four or five positions for the Chargers, and will start at middle linebacker and running back. Wide receiver Leonard Woods and running back Kai Adams return, as does junior Ryan Lantz, a former free safety who will take over at quarterback for Columbia-bound Matt Dame. Suncoast carries numerous two-way players, so conditioning could be a concern late in games. But look for the Chargers to run well, and stop the run on the other side.

VILLAGE ACADEMY

Coach:Don Hanna, 10th season

2015 record:5-6, lost in 2A regional semifinals

Starters returning:7 offense, 8 defense

Big man on campus:Senior lineman Cyril Spells is the centerpiece of the Tigers’ offensive and defensive lines. The 6-foor-2, 290-pound Spells will anchor both units, which return every starter from last season.

Outlook:With 15 returning starters, the Tigers are in good position to make another playoff run. Village Academy qualified for the 2015 postseason as the runner-up in District 8-2A, and hopes to win the championship this year. Spells returns, along with senior defensive back Rodley Jolicoeur, who holds multiple college offers, and junior lineman Brian Bureau. Hanna considers the Tigers’ line a strength, as the entire unit returns from last season. “We’ll definitely have an advantage up front,” he said. Depth could be a concern, as Village Academy expects to carry 25-30 players, with most playing both ways. Senior quarterback Roudnes Louissaint will start this year after spending much of last season as a backup.

WELLINGTON

Coach:Tom Abel, fifth season

2015 record:6-5, lost in the 8A regional quarterfinals

Starters returning:6 offense, 4 defense

Big man on campus:Senior wide receiver D.J. Dobkins is expected to lead a talented group of receivers that could be among the best in the county.

Outlook:The Wolverines lost numerous impact players to graduation last season, among them wide receivers Ahmmon Richards and Austin Gilman, lineman Harry Paul and quarterback Blake Dever. But Abel is confident in the players he has returning. Senior Ben Schmickle is the frontrunner to take over at quarterback for Dever, while Wellington’s receiving corps, led by Dobkins and senior Sage Chen-Young and sophomores Jymetre Hester and Mark-Anthony Richards, could be among the best in the area. Wellington has qualified for the playoffs in consecutive years primarily because of its offense, but Abel expects his defensive unit to be a strength this season. The Wolverines expect to challenge for a district title and advance deep into the playoffs. “We’re very blessed at all of our positions, especially on offense,” Abel said.

WEST BOCA RATON

Coach:Alphonso Moran, fourth season

2015 record:5-5

Starters returning:5 offense, 4 defense

Big man on campus:Senior quarterback Matt Gross brings plenty of experience to the Bulls’ offense, having played in the West Boca Raton football program for four seasons. The Bulls averaged 21.8 points per game under Gross last year.

Outlook:The Bulls finished in a three-way tie for third last season in District 13-7A, and hope to push for a playoff spot this year. Gross is a key returnee for West Boca Raton, as is senior wide receiver Shavon Taylor. The Bulls must replace numerous starters on both sides of the ball, among them standout linebackers Bryan Sullivan and Oakley Lavallii, lineman Austin Chin and running back Keano Grice. West Boca Raton will have a young team, and inexperience and depth could be a concern. But Moran was encouraged by his team’s work ethic during the off-season and hopes to contend in a challenging district.