It was a good news/bad news Friday for St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Roger Harriott and his team.
The good news was that last year’s co-national champion, an undefeated team was opening the season against unbeaten TRU Prep Academy (aka NSU University School).
The bad news – besides no fans being able to watch games, was that this 7 p.m. game began at 9:40.
After all those months of waiting staying safe from the Covid-19 Virus, the Raiders had to wait nearly three hours before starting the season – due to lightning in the area.
When they did get going against a team that had been through plenty themselves, the Raiders were rusty, but still sound and made enough plays to beat a real good team, 25-13.
Nobody will fool themselves. The Raiders are a team built to win it all – and even more every season, and the objective is always the same.
While they will most likely win another state title this year, but other than Venice, nobody has anywhere enough to keep up with this program.
No matter where you look on this team, they are stacked with talent.
Junior quarterback Zion Turner has gotten better, Anthony Hankerson is as good a 2022 running back as you will find. Tyson Williams is impressive as well. So is sophomore Gemari Sands.
The receiving corps is solid with seniors Quincy Skinner Jr, Carter Bass, Bralon Brown, Antonio Spencer, Sean Watkins and Maurice Newton, and junior Camden Brown. Senior tight end Antonio Johnson and junior Mason Taylor are impressive.
Up front, there are seniors Marco Fugar, Gunnar Hansen, Boaz Saint Vil and Joshua Sauickie.
Defensively, the Raiders are still quick, strong and very agile. Prospects like senior linemen Allan Baugh (DT), Adetola Daranijo (DT), University of Florida commitment Tyreak Sapp (DE), R.J. Sorenson (DE), Alabama-bound Dallas Turner, and junior Travis Gammage.
Senior linebackers Rohan Brown, Michigan commit Jaydon Hood, Jordan Kolnick, and Caden Martinez, and junior Jordan Smith are all playmakers.
The secondary is loaded with Michigan commit Ja’Den McBurrows, Vanderbilt-bound Tyson Russell and Isaiah Taylor. Junior Blake Volcy
Senior Noah Botsford is one of the nation’s best punters and kickers.
SAINTS MARCH TO A WINNING BEAT
It wasn’t the massacre everyone had predicted – because like St. Thomas Aquinas, the Saints are well coached and have player, who will be competing for years and years to come – at a very high level.
Head Coach Mario Smith and his team have athletes that are head-turners – like Clemson-bound offensive lineman Marcus Tate, Wisconsin commit Ricardo Hallman, Middle Tennessee State commit, Nick Vattiatio, arguably one of Florida’s best seniors, kicker John Cannon (USF commitment) and running back Max Balthazar, who is headed to Coastal Carolina.
There are other impressive prospects – such as Class of 2021 standouts: Jeremy Acosta, (NG), Emile Aime (LB), Nygel Ashley (CB), Donte Alexander (WR), Fredrick Cage (WR), Tamari Jones-Cummings (FS), Shai Kochev (LS), Hayward McQueen (LB), Taj Nashid (OL), Vincent Pagano (WR/RB) receiver and Dylan Robinson.
Class of 2022 players will also make a huge impact – such as: Dawson Alters (OC), David Espinso Jr. (OT), Justin Fevrier (OL/DL), Cahlede Jackson (NG), Jeremiah Jasper (OL), Dominic Mathis (OLB), Knight Nakanishi (OLB) and Cardinal Gibbons transfer Deshawn Willoughby, DE
When you talk about the sophomore class, the first name that needs to be mentioned is Brandon Inniss. This is the No. 1 receiver in the nation – and ask St. Thomas Aquinas if he isn’t as good as they will face this year.
Big time prospect who does it all, but he is not alone. The Class of 2023 also features: Lucas Castro (OL), Connor Donahue (DB), Dominic Stephens (Athlete), Ben Sherota (WR) and linebacker Alex Thomas.
As much talent as there are in the upper classes, the Class of 2024 is stealing the show – with elite players Marlon Cochran (RB), Carlos Dales (LB), Semaj Jackson (RB/S), J.T. Madison (WR), Vincent Shavers (RB) and quarterback Cecil Stone, QB
Additionally, the Class of 2024 is deep – featuring Chris Balhtazar (S), Andrew Crowley (OL), Ian Donahue (WR),Chris Ewald (DB), Alon Kochav (K), Jhamari Hall (OLB), Zayquan Patterson (Athlete), Bryce Stringer (DE), Jimmy Williams (OL) and receiver Ricardo Williams.