Coach Smart likes his team’s attitude
News-Gazette Photo/Marc Clery
St. Cloud Coach Bryan Smart said that his team has become closer and more competitive after working at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp in July. He said that his players have brought the momentum they built at the FCA camp into the fall practices, which started Monday.
By Rick Pedone
Football practice got off to a good start this week at St. Cloud High where dozens of maroon-and-gold clad players raced through drills on the practice field in the shadow of nearby Gannarelli Field.
The early morning shade from the visitors’ grandstand came in handy during breaks in practice as the team huddled at the water stations, preparing for the next workout session.
Coach Bryan Smart said Tuesday that things were going well and preparations for the Aug. 22 Kickoff Classic against Colonial are on schedule.
“These kids have a great attitude and real cohesiveness,” he said. “And, the weather hasn’t been that bad. We had some nice low clouds Monday, and (Tuesday) hasn’t been that bad.”
Offensive lineman Vince Gallegos said he was ready to hit the field when he woke up Monday morning.
“It was great. It’s football season,” he said.
Like all Florida High School Athletic Association members, St. Cloud and other Osceola County programs must adhere to a practice protocol which requires teams to work only in helmets and shorts for the first two days and prevents contact until the sixth practice day.
“It’s frustrating,” Gallegos, a senior, said. “I understand why they do it, to make sure everybody gets in shape and is ready for the season, but it’s frustrating because we’ve been working hard all summer and we feel like we’re ready to go.”
The Bulldogs attended the Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp in DeLand last month, where they scrimmaged against other teams in full pads.
“I wish we could hit,” senior linebacker and defensive end Kaylin Alvarez said Tuesday. “Especially since we already did at the (FCA) camp. “I like hitting, even against our own guys.”
Alvarez said the time spent reviewing schemes on the field this week would pay off, though.
“Yeah, we’re mostly learning the defense this week. It helps to know everything a little better, I guess,” he said.
Alvarez said that the FCA camp helped the team in other ways aside from the live scrimmages.
“We developed a closeness there, a real tight bond,” he said. “Last year we didn’t have that, but this team is tight.”
Another senior linebacker, Gio Olivera, said the Bulldogs are a team in every sense of the word this season.
“I really respected our senior class in 2012. I was a young guy, and those guys took the time to work with us and they weren’t obsessed about stats and things like that,” Olivera said. “That’s what our senior class wants to be. We want to help the younger guys, teach them about what it takes to be a Bulldog. That’s what I’m doing right now (at practice), working with our younger players and teaching them what to do.”
Olivera, who caused a fumble that helped St. Cloud win its spring game at Eustis, said that sense of camaraderie would pay dividends down the road and it could help to improve last year’s 3-7 record.
“That will be the difference. We are all together,” Olivera said.
Of course, no team wins without talent.
“We’ve got some real talented guys on this team, like (receiver) Trevill (Holcy), (defensive back) Daniel (Rincon) and (defensive back) Jovane (Parkinson),” Alvarez said. “We know we’re in a tough district, but we can be good.”
Gallegos said that the offensive line will do its job this season.
“We’re working really hard to get better. We want to be the best offensive line in Osceola County,” he said.
Whether or not that can happen, Coach Smart loves the attitude and work ethic his team brings to the field each morning.
“That (FCA) camp is the best thing we’ve ever done, especially the group meetings we had that brought everyone together. It has really helped us and I think it is going to make us a better team,” he said.
But, he added, there is still a lot of work ahead.
“We need to work on getting tougher,” he said. “We’ll see if we can do it.”
The Kickoff Classic will have special meaning to the Bullldogs.
Former St. Cloud head coach Mike Short is Colonial’s coach, and Brad Lennox, the Bulldogs’ coach two years ago, is on the Grenadiers coaching staff.
“It’ll be great to have Mike and Brad back again, it’ll be fun,” Smart said.
The Bulldogs will open the regular season Thursday, Aug. 28 at ESPN Wide World of Sports against Eagle Crest, Col.