Trenton out to ride momentum
Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:56 p.m.
As Trenton's packed weight room and practice fields grew increasingly crowded throughout the summer, Andrew Thomas paused to reflect on how his team has changed in two short seasons.
2013 Trenton Tigers
2012 record: 13-1 (Class 1A finalists)
Coach: Andrew Thomas (third year)
Key games: Aug. 30 at Lafayette; Oct. 11 vs. Chiefland; Oct. 18 vs. Hawthorne
Players to watch: Stephen Smith, Sr., QB/DB; Melvin Adams, Sr., RB; Tyler Sauls, Sr., OL/DL; Jacquez Powell, Sr., LB/FB
Aug. 30 — at Lafayette
Sept. 6 — Branford
Sept. 13 — at Dixie County
Sept. 20 — Bell*
Sept. 27 — Idle
Oct. 4 — at Hilliard*
Oct. 11 — Chiefland
Oct. 18 — Hawthorne*
Oct. 25 — at Marianna
Nov. 1 — at Bronson*
Nov. 8 — St. Francis
*District 6-1A games
Though the Tigers have won 24 games in that span, the most impressive number weighing on Thomas' mind is the nearly 60 players regularly showing up this offseason for his demanding and intense workouts in the sweltering heat.
“Of course, they thought I was crazy the first year,” said Thomas, who was hired by THS in 2011. “That's been the biggest surprise and eye-opening thing for me is we know we have it going in the right path when you have that many kids consistently coming.”
After Trenton reeled off 13 straight wins last season to reach its first Class 1A state title game in school history, Thomas doesn't envision his team taking a step back anytime soon.
The Tigers return 15 total starters off their District 6-1A championship squad that averaged 44.1 points per game before a 42-21 loss to Bratt Northview in Orlando cut short its ultimate goal.
“We kind of raised the bar, and we're keeping it there,” Thomas said. “We're expecting to win, and we're expecting to win a district championship. Kind of our motto this year is 'unfinished business.' So we want to get there, and we want to win it all.”
Before making another deep playoff run, Trenton will need to find a way to replace first-team all-state running back Cedric Stokes, who fueled the Tigers' option offense for 2,021 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground last season.
Along with all-area quarterback Stephen Smith, Trenton will look to senior tailback Melvin Adams, a 771-yard rusher, to produce inside the tackles, while speedsters Kenny Deen and Hamp Cheevers try to find the edge.
“We'll have some of those guys by committee doing more things on the perimeter,” Thomas said. “Whereas last year, we could have Cedric do everything. We're going to design a little more read stuff with Stephen and give him more options to carry the ball.”
Smith, who rushed for 1,165 yards last season, will also split time in the Tigers' young secondary. His brother, freshman Michael Smith, started the state title game at safety last season but is out to start the year with a broken collarbone.
While the defensive backfield is a unit of concern for Thomas, he is also anticipating starting 6-foot-1, 215-pound lineman Tyler Sauls and fullback Jacquez Powell (86 tackles at linebacker) on both sides of the ball.
“Our whole philosophy is even though we've been really explosive offensively, we're trying to build everything around our defense,” said Thomas, who previously worked as a defensive coordinator at both Dixie County and Chiefland. “We're going to put our best there and build around them. We're hoping to be a little more dynamic this year defensively.”
Though Trenton cruised against returning district opponents Hilliard, Hawthorne, Bell and Bronson by a combined 218-38 margin in 2012, the Tigers' non-league schedule features Chiefland, Dixie County and Class 4A Marianna as potential roadblocks to a perfect season.
Trenton also hosts a rematch with fellow Class 1A semifinalist Newberry in Friday's preseason classic at 7:30 p.m.
“Even though we've got so much coming back, it still feels like we're a young group,” Thomas said. “We don't have a whole lot of leadership. We're still trying to establish that, which is kind of weird being we have nine starters coming back on offense and six on defense.”