ALL-EAST COAST TEAM
WHEN COCOA LOSES – WHICH IS RARE – IT doesn’t happen against local opponents. The Tigers might drop a game deep in the state play- offs, or they might take on a national powerhouse
from another corner of the country and be narrowly defeated. But
when they play locally, no team is a match for the Tigers.
Cocoa returns 28 lettermen, including top recruits, All-Staters,
dominant statistical leaders, one of the state’s top coaches in
John Wilkinson … you name it, it is intact. And even though, technically, starters return at only nine positions, this isn’t a program
that has trouble plugging holes. The “starters-back” category is
deceiving when it comes to perennial powerhouses.
So look for another dominating season for Cocoa. The
schedule is tough as nails (as usual), but the Tigers can
handle their business in fine form.
Class 8A power Vero Beach could probably also fit into the
No. 1 slot. The Indians are in a similar situation as Cocoa in
that local teams have a tough time competing with them.
Vero Beach went undefeated in the regular season last
year and returns 30 lettermen to the roster. Like Cocoa,
there are All-Staters back along with players who put up
eye-popping numbers (case in point: WR M.J. McGriff – 110
catches, 1,545 yards, state-leading 23 TD receptions).
Yes, one could easily make the argument that Vero Beach
and Cocoa are interchangeable for that top spot. They both
are coming off fantastic seasons, return a great core of
players and have big-time playmakers back.
THE NEXT TIER
Heritage and Fort Pierce Central make up what we call
our “next tier.” While neither had the pristine seasons the
top two area teams had in 2014, they both return gobs of
experience and have been traditional winners.
Heritage is a young program but has gone 30-7 the past
three seasons. Fort Pierce Central actually went 4-6 last
year but made the playoffs. The Panthers played a bruising
schedule and would have had a better record if they had not
challenged themselves so often last fall.
These teams are two to keep an eye on because of their
recent success and sizeable returning contingents. Look for
20-plus combined wins from these two programs.
THE FINAL SPOT
As usual, this is a tough spot to pick. We are going with Palm
Bay, which has an experienced winner in coach Dan Burke and an
outstanding defense. The Pirates missed the playoffs last year for
the first time in recent memory, but they should be back this fall.
In our ranking, Palm Bay narrowly beat out a Viera team
that went 9-0 in the regular season and returns 15 starters.
While the Hawks didn’t play quite the schedule of some of
the teams ranked above, they took care of business – and
most of those players return.
Also, keep an eye on Astronaut and Okeechobee – two
programs that struggled in 2014 but return nearly their
entire starting lineups. Those kinds of programs can bounce
back nicely. – Brian McLaughlin
EAST COAST REGION
Cocoa High School expects
more big plays this year from
returning starter Chauncey
QB Carson Proctor, Vero Beach
RB B. J. Daniels, Melbourne
RB Akeem Dixon, Vero Beach
WR Tre Nixon, Viera
WR Mason Wilfong, John Carroll
OL Stewart Reese, Fort Pierce Central
OL Jawaan Taylor, Cocoa
OL Cameron Hendricks, Vero Beach
OL Nathan Podaras, Jensen Beach
OL Chris Romano, Treasure Coast
UT Bruce Judson, Cocoa
DL Patrick Bethel, Vero Beach
DL Jarez Parks, Sebastian River
DL Anthony Knighton, Fort Pierce Central
DLWilliam Davis, Fort Pierce Central
LB- Brock Miller, John Carroll
LB Greg Simmons, Fort Pierce Central
LB Twonnie Pollard, Palm Bay
DB Chauncey Gardner, Cocoa
DB Trevor Merritt, Viera
DB Troy Hilton, Bayside
DB William Summler, John Carroll
UT M.J. McGriff, Vero Beach
2. Vero Beach
4. Fort Pierce Central
5. Palm Bay