DAYTONA BEACH – The News-Journal’s spring football tour of the Volusia-Flagler region has finally reached its final stop.
The four-week odyssey included tours to every corner of both counties – as far north as the Palm Coast, all along I-95 to New Smyrna Beach and across I-4. to Orange City and Deltona. The last team to focus, however, is here at Daytona Beach.
Father Lopez suffered an injury-riddled 2020 campaign, which also included a mandatory two-week quarantine end after his Oct. 16 victory over the Atlantic. The Green Wave finished with a 3-4 record, falling 35-21 to Melbourne Holy Trinity Episcopal in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.
Drawn to Class 2A for the coming season, head coach Daniel Fish knows his team will have an uphill battle to break through the playoff field.
âI think our area has become more difficult,â Fish said. âYou have (Winter Garden) Foundation, (Lakeland) Victory Christian, Orlando Christian Prep, Zephyrhills Christian, Holy Trinity, * (Maitland) Orangewood. They’re all, traditionally, playoff teams. And then you put us in the mix. As we’ve talked about before, there will be at least two quality teams that fail next year. “
To top off our “5 Spring Football Questions” series, we’re looking to see if the Green Wave can actually become contenders this fall.
Where will Antwan Scott play in his final year?
Since joining Father Lopez in 2018, Scott has tormented the opposing quarterbacks. He had 11 sacks in just seven games last fall, and that followed a second campaign in which he was 11Â½.
However, at 6-1, 220 pounds, his college future lies at linebacker – a position Fish played for four-time NCAA Division II National Champion Valdosta State.
Scott was dedicated to understanding coverage against different types of route combinations.
âEspecially the crossers,â Scott said. “I understood it now.”
Scott will also be the team’s No. 1 running back again. He’s averaging 7.8 yards per carry in 2020, totaling 428 yards with a few touchdowns.
Who can share the load in the backfield?
With Scott serving as the focal point of Lopez’s defense, it’s imperative for the team to have multiple options in the running game.
Jason Brown, a 2022 graduate, was the team’s second runner last year with 101 yards on 25 carries. Javen Griffin’s main contributions have come defensively (48 total tackles, 3 TFLs), but he has been in the backyard mix during camp.
Fish hints that more help will be coming this summer, courtesy of some exciting freshmen.
Is it Aiden Bourque’s team now?
That’s certainly the hope after Bourque, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound pocket passer, inherited the role when Andrew Acebal suffered a late-season injury two weeks later.
Bourque filled in admirably, completing 61.8 percent of his attempts for 953 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Fish sees an improvement in arm strength and defenses in reading attributed to working with former Florida State quarterback Thad Busby and he hopes for similar growth in his leadership as Bourque his last. year.
âYou don’t have to be hard on people; you raise them with confidence, âBourque said of his style. “You lead by example and carry your teammates.”
William Tucker and Lech Sweeney see reps at camp, but Bourque is expected to come in in the fall as a prohibitive favorite under center.
There is definitely strength on the list. Is there a speed up to it?
Father Lopez has exceptional strength and functionality in the weight room for a Class 2A team this fall.
Scott, slots catcher Avery Atkins Jr. and linebacker / tight end Bryce Nemmers were three of six Green Wave qualifiers in men’s weightlifting last month. Atkins, son of the former Mainland and University of Florida star, placed fourth in the 119-pound category.
He and Adam Utter, a two-way starter at receiver and cornerback, claim to be the team’s fastest athletes.
âIt’s a big competition in training, who can run the sprints the fastest,â Utter said. “Avery and I are especially proud to lead the team and try to be the fastest.”
Will they have enough depth?
Fish estimates his squad numbered around 28 players in the first three weeks of spring. He believes that a strong rookie class, especially the arrival of a pair of running backs, will solidify the squad.
Depth improved along the offensive line, however, where Fish landed about eight players he was comfortable with starting next week’s show at Crescent City. Four of them return to the start – left tackle Jared Giles (6-4, 300), left guard Rachodd McCloud (6-0, 270), center Landon Neisius (6-0, 315) and right tackle Marquilo Rhynes (6-2, 250).
âThis is something that I’m really happy about and that we really need,â Fish said.
Plus, Fish enjoys his returning crop of defensive linemen, linebackers, and perimeter skill players.