After coming off of back-to-back 4-6 seasons, Head Coach Bryan Smart says his St. Cloud Bulldogs squad is extremely upbeat as it heads into the 2019 campaign.
St. Cloud, which opened last season with six straight losses, rallied down the stretch with four consecutive victories, something that Smart says has created a lot of enthusiasm heading into the new season.
“There was a very real chance last season could turn into a disaster,” Smart recalled. “About midway through the season, we changed some things up and our kids really bought into it. We rallied for four straight wins down the stretch. It was a real credit to our players and their attitudes they brought to practice every day.”
One of those changes was to make Garhett King the full-time starter at quarterback and move Koron Perrin to both wide receiver and running back. King, a 6-0, 170-pound junior, finished last season with 1,078 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. Perrin, who threw for 715 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, also ran for 330 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added another score on a 57-yard pass play.
“Having both those guys on the field at the same time will be a big plus for us,” Smart said. “Korron is extremely explosive and can be used at several positions.”
One area Smart admits will have to be addressed is the running back position with the graduation of Seth Johnson. A speedster, Johnson was a 1000 yard rusher last season and also caught 846 yards worth of passes while scoring 12 total touchdowns.
“You really can’t replace a talent Seth, he could do so many good things,” Smart said. “We have a couple guys back and some new guys coming in that we will take a good look at all of them in pre-season camp and during the kickoff game. We’ll just have to see who will step up and earn the majority of carries this year.”
Romeo Medina, Patrick Forsyth, Harold Durrant and Ronny Ramos are all candidates to replace Johnson in the Bulldog backfield.
Heading into the season, Smart believes both his offensive and defensive lines are strengths on his 2019 squad. The Bulldogs return a majority of starters on both sides of the ball – including center Dion Thomas, offensive lineman Trent Greer and defensive end Tanner Krisle.
“We have a lot of experience coming back on both lines,” Smart said. “We’ll be counting on those guys to provide a lot of leadership.”
Together, Krisle – along with linebacker Caleb Endicott, and defensive backs Tyler Ford and Trace Clark – should give the Bulldogs a more experienced and much-improved defense.
One thing that could cause problems this season is the schedule.
The Bulldogs remain in 7A but move to a new district that includes Viera. The Bulldogs will also play Bayside and traditional state power Osceola. They also have a matchup with Golden, Colorado on Aug. 29, and will face arch-rival Harmony in a district game Oct. 25.
“Our work is cut out for us,” Smart said. “Viera is not only considered a state power but has been nationally ranked a couple times in the past years. In additional to being a rival, we all know how good Osceola is year-in and year-out and we have several other tough opponents. In some ways it is good, because district runner-ups are no longer guaranteed a playoff spot. Against this schedule, any wins will help our playoff ranking.”
One thing that Smart said has been most gratifying this off-season has been a relatively quiet winner and smooth transition into the upcoming season. “After the 2017 season we lost 17 seniors and had eight other players transfer. We were facing a lot of question marks and turmoil heading into last season. This offseason, everything was positive. We have a great group of kids that are absolutely committed to the process. I love them to death.”