If you ask Rocco Casullo how his first year as head coach at Cypress Bay was, he would look at you, bite is tongue and find something positive to say.
What his Lightning went through this past season is not what the veteran football coach had in mind for the first year – making a return to the sport as a head coach.
With Covid providing no contact for nearly the first five months that he had the job, Casullo, who was brought up around football in Syracuse, New York by his NFL coach father and family, was going out of his mind.
After coaching stints at St. Thomas Aquinas, winning a national title among producing so many quality football players, and at Mater Academy, Casullo returned to the game because he loved being around the game on a daily basis. Loved those Friday night games, weekday practices and dealing with the coaches. None of that went on this past season.
During the three-game season that Cypress Bay played this past fall, they were 1-2, and it was frustrating. But everyone was going through the same thing and nobody cared what you were going through.
Because he is a detail, by the book kind of coach, Casullo’s wheels were turning full steam, putting a roster together in his mind and seeing what he could do to set the table for a very bright future – while the sport, and life, were on hold.
The point of 2020 was not the three games, but the valuable information that Casullo and his coaching staff got out of this abbreviated season. They all learned a lot about the players.
What they did find is that they stocked the largest public school in the state with bodies at every position and in every class. They are giving these young men an opportunity to build back a tradition that was spiked by Mark Guandolo, who came within a poor referee call of winning an 8A state title.
As they head into the spring, here is a program that will rely on 2022, 2023, 2024 and even incoming 2025 players if they can help.
The 2022 class has the experience, which will go a long way. Among those rising 12th graders are on offense are standout running back Joey Fleming (6-0, 180), Gregory Eldeiry (WR, 5-9, 160), Jakob Feldman (RB, 5-11, 180), Isaac Gonzalez (WR, 6-3, 185), Malcolm Gordon (WR, 5-7, 165), Alejandro Gruber (RB, 5-6, 160), David Guillen (WR, 5-10, 170), Noah Kalman (WR, 5-8, 140), Seth Merrill (WR, 5-11, 170), Jules Pottecher (WR, 5-7, 140), Reid Meyerson (QB, 5-11, 180) and lineman Javier Varas (OL, 6-2, 245)
The Class of 2022 will be well represented on the defensive side with standouts like Israel Colmenares (DB, 6-0, 175), Gabriel Dixon (DB, 5-8, 175), Horace Drake IV (DL, 6-1, 240), Jacob Eaton (DB, 6-0, 145), Matthew Fredrici (LB, 5-10, 205), Richard Ingram (DL, 5-10, 255), Mason Greenway (LB, 5-8, 150), and defensive backs Yanni Jianopoulos (5-10, 155) and Ismael Toure (6-2, 205)
2023 WILL LEAD THE WAY
This rising junior class will certainly be a group of prospects who have worked hard and learned plenty.
Offensively, there are Gustavo Braco (OL, 6-1, 230), Maximiliano Cavazza (OL, 6-0, 245), Matthew Prigmore (OL, 6-1, 240) and fast-rising receiver Noah Solomon (WR, 6-1, 170).
On defense, look for prospects such as Joud Al Sulaiman (LB, 5-6, 170), Claudio Carbajal-Jimenez (DB, 5-8, 155),
Matthew Elias (LB, 5-10 175), Arquiles Erminy (DE, 6-2, 182), Sebastian Gonzalez (DB, 5-9, 145), Orlando Lima (DE, 6-4 200), Jake Oster (DE, 6-1, 180), Grant Nuzzolo (DB, 5-8, 155), Esteban Parra (DB, 6-1, 165), Landen Spiering (DB, 5-9, 155) and linebacker Zachary Toranzo (5-9, 180).
MAKE WAY FOR THE CLASS OF 2024
During this past season, the one group of players that worked extremely hard to jump on the radar screen are the rising sophomores. This Class of 2024 has some impressive talent on both sides of the ball – and several who are capable of going both ways.
Among the list of offensive players to watch are Sean Ackermanian (OL, 6-3, 220), Kael Alexander (QB, 6-3, 190), versatile Michael Brennan (OL, 6-1, 265), Thomas Burke (WR, 5-10 140), Mateo Canale (OL, 5-11, 180), Isaac Centurion (OL, 5-9, 195), Matteo De Almeida (WR, 5-10, 140), Joaquin Edie (WR, 5-10, 140), Karson Kaiser (WR, 6-0, 155), Ryder Lewin (QB, 5-9, 165) and outstanding line prospect Samuel Miller (6-1, 270).
The offense also features kicker Rafael Piazzi (5-11, 140), Sebastian Quiroga (WR, 5-9, 160), Santiago Rodriguez (OL, 5-9, 205) and lineman John White (6-3, 200).
There is also plenty to choose from for the future on defense. Along those who will have a chance this spring incudes Owen Ashley (DB, 5-11, 165), Christopher Clarke (DB, 5-8, 140), Ryan Geary (LB, 5-7, 165), Omar Hernani (DB, 5-9, 145), Gino Lopinto (DB, 5-11, 150), Nicholas Nigro (DL, 6-1, 200), Madden Reyes (LB, 5-11, 180) and lineman Jack White (6-2, 205).