Classification: 1A, Region 4
2004 record: 6-4
Outlook: After falling short of the playoffs in 2004 by the narrowest of margins–John Essex qualified in a tiebreak by virtue of beating common opponent Francis Marion– the Sunshine Tigers are looking to take that last step and push their way into the top four of Region 4 and into the playoffs.
“We’re hoping so,” says head coach Frank Watford. “That’s the goal.”
Even given the difficulty of doing so out of Region 4, which features two of the ASWA’s top four teams in its pre-season poll–Sweet Water and American Christian–and a host of dangerous other teams, Watford firmly believes the Tigers have the talent to pull it off.
Eight of last year’s starters return on both offense and defense, but key figure in Sunshine’s drive to the playoffs will be a freshman starting for the first time at the varsity level: frosh quarterback Marcus Lee.
Despite Lee’s inexperience, Watford says that not only is the freshman talented enough to already lead his team to a winning season, but he’ll be able to do so relying as heavily on his arm as he will on his quick feet. Watford sees big things for the Tigers’ receiving corps–junior Reako Long, sophomores Justin Wagner and Royce Hamilton, and freshman Dermarkis Lewis–and expects the athletic Lee to be able to make enough throws for his receivers to go up and make plays.
“He can read a defense really well. That’s the key,” Watford says of his QB. “If he can keep his head level, we’ll be in good shape.”
The Sunshine defense, according to Watford, will rely on its “quickness” and its senior leadership. Noseguard Marcus Jackson and linebacker Reginald Williams, both seniors, will both need to have big years if Sunshine is to survive their grueling schedule and make the post-season.