Caleb Loppe took an unconventional route to the gridiron.
In fact, the Lakewood Ranch senior defensive end didn’t actually strap on a helmet until his sophomore year of high school.
A former baseball player, Loppe knew next to nothing about football when a friend convinced him to try it.
Loppe decided to give the sport a try. He soon realized it was nothing like America’s favorite pastime.
“It was painful,” Loppe says. “It’s football. It’s hard work, but it’s fun and worth the experience. If I could go back and start doing football earlier, I would.”
Loppe landed a spot on the Mustangs’ defense and has been working his way up ever since.
“I wanted to be on defense because that’s where you get to hit people,” Loppe says. “That’s where the fun part is, at least for me.”
Loppe’s crowning moment came last fall when the 6-foot-1, 195-pound defender, who was sick at the time, ran down a running back in Lakewood’s rivalry game against Braden River.
This fall, Loppe is one of four seniors on Lakewood’s defensive line — a scenario the Mustangs hope to use to their advantage when the season kicks off Friday night.
“Defensively, I believe this team is very solid,” Loppe says. “I believe the defense will be good. I have faith in this team, and I think we’ll do better than we did last year — at least, I hope so. It’s all about passion.”
Loppe has spent the past two-and-a-half years learning Lakewood’s schemes. Now, as he prepares for his final season with the Mustangs, Loppe is hoping to have a breakout season — one he hopes will end with a playoff berth.
“I just want to have plenty of tackles and do what I’m supposed to do,” Loppe says. “I’m just trying to do the best I can, really, and hopefully we’ll have a big year.”
— Jen Blanco, Sports Editor
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BY THE NUMBERS
LAKEWOOD RANCH High School
5500 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Lakewood Ranch Mascot: Mustangs / 2012 Record: 5-5
4 — The number of seniors on the Mustangs’ defensive line.
16.5 — The average number of points the Mustangs scored last season.
887 — The number of yards running back Chris Pearcey rushed for last season. Pearcey will miss his senior season after tearing his ACL over the summer.
Shawn Trent: Ninth Year
On the new district: Our goal is to make the playoffs and win a district championship. We want to be successful. Our district is hard because, competitively, there’s not anyone who’s really a front-runner. If you don’t play perfect every game, you can get beat. There’s a lot more balance.
On this season: This is my ninth year and I’ve never felt we’ve had a team with which we could just walk on the field and win just because of who we are. We have to play well every Friday if we want to have an opportunity to win; and our kids are conditioned for that. I don’t think there have been many games when I’ve thought we have no chance to win.
On defensive presence: We’re going to be much faster defensively. We’re still pretty young, but they have more experience because they had to play last year. Our linebackers are still somewhat young, but they’re running better. So, hopefully the combination of a senior defensive line with faster linebackers will make it easier for the linebackers.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
28 — Ty McLeod
57 — Caleb Loppe
60 — Andrew Hoskinson
Senior, offensive line
“He’s the leader for the offensive line,” Shawn Trent says. "
88 — Wyatt McLeod
Senior, tight end
“He runs really well for a big kid,” Trent says. “He does a really good job and makes it look easy.”