Sometimes—when you want o test out your toughness— you have to go outside the neighborhood you grew
up in to seek out more brutal
How else are you going to know
how you stack up? In prep football,
what else will get you ready for that
deep playoff run? This is Cocoa.
The Tigers, headed up by long-time head coach John Wilkinson,
have mowed through their
traditional area for many years now.
The Space Coast traditionally has
been pretty strong in football over
the decades. But Cocoa has found
a way to surpass its home county
area and now goes far and wide in
Florida—and beyond Florida’s border—to prove its worth and prepare
itself for the brutal postseason
road ahead. Last year, Cocoa lost to
on out-of-state national power (St.
Edwards from the Cleveland, Ohio
area), a stacked Bradenton IMG
Academy and Miami Washington
to finish 10-3—which has left the
See, Cocoa’s players start
August drills knowing full well they
won’t be able to focus solely on
their turkey dinners the week of
Thanksgiving—they’ll need to be
more focused on the Xs and Os of
a massive playoff matchup. Most
programs in Florida may say that
in August, but Cocoa lives and
breathes that philosophy.
So how is 2016 looking? Like
state title level good—maybe as
good as the three-year state title
run from 2008-10.
“We have players with
experience, a very hard working
group that is hungry for success,”
Wilkinson said. “Defensively
we should be pretty strong with
nine returning starters. We have
improved with our overall team
strength by working hard in the
Now let’s start right there
and dissect what Wilkinson just
said—nine defensive starters
return to a lineup that held eight
of its 13 opponents to less than
10 points. Yeah, the quarterbacks
and the skill kids on offense get all
the acclaim, but these guys would
make a boa constrictor jealous with
the way they squeeze the life out of
Let’s start with the linebacking
corps—senior Jekevius Henry,
juniors Zach Beagle, John Smith.
All three racked up more than 100
tackles last year, so it’s hard to
say there is any kind of soft spot to
exploit. None of the three is 6-foot-
3, 225 pounds—they all hover in
the 5-11 to 6-foot range and none
weighs more than 190 pounds—but
these kids thrive within this system
and prowl well.
Two-way stud Howard Stewart
helps out up front on the D-line,
sopping up the sacks—and he even
managed to haul in two interceptions. Senior J.D. Lennear is one
of his key partners along the front.
DBs Qunellius Phillips and Jaleel
Henry handle anything unlucky
enough to get past the gauntlet up
front. In all, Cocoa is staying true
to its tough, quick style. These kids
can all hit.
The scary thing about all of this
is that while the defense returns
nine of 11 starters, the offense
isn’t far behind with eight returning
starters. The interior of the line
looks like the starting point—with
senior Naceiya Gilmore and juniors
Josh Padrick and Zach Brasher.
Padrick is the center.
They’ll be operating in front
of dual-threat master QB Bruce Judson, a big-time ‘athlete’ prospect
who has accounted for more than
7,300 yards of offense and 100
TDs in his Tigers career. RB Timmy
Pratt had 1,600 rushing yards and
15 TDs last year, and remember
Stewart from the D-line? He also
happens to be a battering ram in
the run game. Cocoa will continue
to grind opponents down.
The program is adhering to its
typical diet of out-of-state powers,
like with its trip to Las Vegas to
take on Bishop Gorman. Kansas
City (Mo.) program Rockhurst will
make a trip to the Space Coast,
while reigning state champion
Jacksonville Trinity Christian and
traditional power Daytona Beach
Mainland also fill the in-state
schedule. Brevard County rival
Viera gave the Tigers everything
they wanted last year, so keep an
eye on that non-district game.
“Tiger Stadium is a loud, very
exciting place to be on Friday
night,” Wilkinson said. “Our kids will
play hard and be disciplined and
the fans will appreciate the product
on the field.”
EXTENDED TEAM FEATURE
AUG. 28: VS. TRINITY CHRISTIAN
SEP. 2: AT BISHOP GORMAN (NV)
SEP. 16: VS. LAKE HIGHLAND PREP
SEP. 23: AT VIERA
SEP. 30: VS. ROCKHURST (MO)
OCT. 7: VS. MAINLAND
OCT. 14: VS. JONES
OCT. 21: AT ASTRONAUT
OCT. 28: AT ATLAN TIC
NOV. 4: VS. ROCKLEDGE
KEY PLAYERS: Bruce Judson (Sr., QB); Timmy Pratt (Sr., RB); Ian
Newton (Sr., DL); Lasedrick King (Sr., RB); Zachary Beagle (Jr., LB);
Jekevius Henry (Sr., LB); John Smith (Jr., LB); Naceiya Gilmore (Sr.,
OL); Howard Stewart (Jr., DL); Quennelius Phillips (Jr., DB); Dezmon
Morgan (Sr., DB); Javian Hawkins (Jr., RB); Javon Spencer (Sr., WR);
Juwan Armstrong (Sr., WR).
6 OFFENSE, 9 DEFENSE
MATT LOUCKS, DOUG RUGGLES, TON Y
PICCALO, MATT YOUNGER, JOSH WOODS,
TYRONE GISCOMBE, BRUCE JUDSON,
CRAIG SPENCER, KEVIN FREEMAN, DAVID
BELL, CHARLES STOCKTON
Howard Ste wart
Javon Spencer Joaquin Lennear Jekevius Henry John Smith
Keith Powell DB Sr.
Timmy Pratt RB Sr.
Javian Hawkins RB Jr.
Bruce Judson QB Sr.
Jekevius Henry LB Sr.
John Smith LB Jr.
Juwan Armstrong WR Sr.
Qunelius Phillips DB Jr.
Ramontis Freeman DB Sr.
Ian Ed wards WR Jr.
Marquees Parker DB Sr.
Brad Canarie QB Sr.
Jaariq Charles DE Jr.
Zach Beagle LB Jr.
Javon Spencer WR Sr.
Dezmon Morgan DB Sr.
Jaleel Henry DB Jr.
Lasedrick King RB Sr.
Josh Ramirez DB Sr.
Cameron James DB Sr.
Zach Christian LB Sr.
Howard Stewart RB Jr.
Josh Padrick OL Jr.
Eddie Gonzalez K Sr.
Clay James LB Jr.
Zack Brasher OL Jr.
Adrian Murray OL Sr.
Joaquin Lennear DE Sr.
Alex Applegate OL Sr.
Naceiya Gilmore OL Sr.
Blake Noyes DL Sr.
Brandon Niebuhr OL Sr.
Jarrod Gunn DL Sr.
Nick Parks OL So.
KyleHurst OL Sr.
Eric Jones OL Sr.
Crystal Moore DL Sr.
Deundrell Turpin DB Jr.
Dada White DL 8th
ZackWhittaker DE So.
CJ Bartley DE Sr.
Alex Petruzzello K So.
Ian Newton D T Sr.
Qunelius Phillips Tim Pratt Zach Beagle Zach Brasher
FRIDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL FLORIDA
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