LAKEWOOD RANCH — Last season didn’t end the way the Mustangs wanted.
But the Lakewood Ranch High football team will have several fresh faces patrolling the sidelines this fall as the team tries to rebound from a disappointing 1-9 season. Coach Shawn Trent spent the offseason revamping his coaching staff with the addition of four new assistant coaches — linebackers coach Anthony Little John, offensive line coach Bryan Richards, quarterbacks coach Colby West and tight end coach James Williams.
The transition appears to be a welcome one thus far as both the players and coaches are responding well to the new additions.
“It makes life a little bit more comforting going to practice,” Trent said. “Anytime you bring younger guys in closer to their age … there’s excitement there. With Anthony they know he just got done playing seven or eight months ago.
“I think youth always bring excitement and then you (add that in with) the older guys’ experience coaching,” he added. “That’s going to be the biggest hurdle for these guys is that they don’t have a lot of coaching experience, so when it comes to making decisions during a game or coming up with a game plan … that’s where they’ll kind of have to learn.”
Anthony Little John
Position coach: Linebackers
High school: Englewood High School
Alma mater: Mississippi State University Class of 2008
Education: Bachelor’s degree in sociology; studying education at State College of Florida
Prior coaching experience: First-year coach
Decision to come to Lakewood: “I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State, and I wanted to be a U.S. marshal or go into law enforcement. But the more I thought about it the more I figured I wouldn’t be making any changes at 23 or 24 in people’s lives, so I gravitated toward coaching and teaching. I actually did an internship this past fall and spring in Mississippi, and after doing that I decided I would be better suited in a school atmosphere helping kids.”
Toughest part about playing linebacker: “You need to have good instincts, and you’ve got to be physical because there’s a lot of dirty work (involved). When playing linebacker, there are three things I go by: 1. You’ve got to read it. 2. You’ve got to react to what you see. 3. You’ve got to make contact.”
Advice to the players: “The biggest thing I want to teach them is to focus on the little things — how to step with the right foot, running to the ball at the time and how to watch film. Nobody really thinks about the little things, but I want to teach them to do the little things every time because those are what will make you become a better player.”
Position coach: Offensive line
High school: Lakewood Ranch High School
Alma bater: Webber International University Class of 2006
Education: Bachelor’s degree in sports management; studying education at State College of Florida
Prior coaching experience: Spent two years coaching Lakewood’s freshman team before moving to the varsity level this year
Decision to come to Lakewood: “Mike Wilder was the assistant principal when I was here, and he said if I ever needed a job to give him a call. So I took him up on his offer.”
Toughest part about playing offensive line: “There’s physical contact on every play.”
Advice to the players: “The biggest thing I want to teach them is technique and trying to make them really (come together) as an offensive line. There are always multiple people involved on different plays. Being a part of the offensive line — it’s more of a team game than people really think.”
Position coach: Quarterbacks
High school: Manatee High School
Alma mater: Florida State University Class of 2006
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science; studying education at State College of Florida
Prior coaching experience: Spent a year coaching at Southeast working as the junior varsity offensive line coach, a varsity assistant coach and as a varsity assistant soccer coach
Decision to come to Lakewood: Enrollment at Southeast was on the decline, and several assistant coaching positions were going to be eliminated, so West moved to Lakewood. “I’m really enjoying it,” West said. “Being relatively freshly removed from the game allows you to still have that competitive nature. Even though you’re not playing, you’re still involved in the process, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Toughest part about playing offensive line: “The quarterback is usually the most important player on the offense. A lot of the game depends on your actions, thought process and the decisions you make. The (team’s success) heavily revolves around your playmaking ability and the decisions that you make.”
Advice to the players: “I just want to teach them to work hard and to be committed. If you take that approach to playing everything else (will come together). Nothing replaces hard work. The more repetitions you have, the more you practice and the more committed you are, the more productive and successful of a player you’ll become.”
Position coach: Tight end
Hometown: Fort Myers
High school: Lehigh Senior High School
Alma mater: Florida International Class of 2007
Education: Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in music
Prior coaching experience: First-year coach
Decision to come to Lakewood: “I went to a few other places, one of them being Cardinal Mooney, and talked to them, but I didn’t hear anything back from them so I decided I would give Lakewood Ranch a try. I was out driving by Lakewood Ranch one day and I stopped by. I talked to Coach Trent and what I thought would be a 45-minute conversation ended up being about four-and-one-half hours. He started asking me what experience I had, and I started telling him, and he decided that I had enough knowledge where he would take a chance.”
Toughest part about playing tight end: “At the high school level, the toughest part would have to be the blocking. So many players don’t want to follow through, and you’ve got to continue to drive it through their head and be patient with them so that hopefully they’ll catch on to it that you’re telling them the right thing to do, so that they can perform at their best.”
Advice to the players: “One thing that I always tell them every day is that if you’re not getting better, then you’re getting worse, and you’re never stagnant. My tight ends in the spring really took that to heart, especially my two starters.”
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Members and guests of the Lakewood Ranch Women’s Club ventured Dec. 4 to Orlando, to view holiday decorations at the Grand Floridian and to have lunch at Downtown Disney.
The Play Readers of the Asolo Repertory Theatre Guild were in fine form as they entertained at the Art Association of Palm-Aire’s opening winter luncheon with “Fractured Fairy Tales.”
Catapulting into first place
Seven Manatee County elementary schools competed in the countywide Technology Student Association catapult competition Nov. 16, at Southeast High School. Students built the catapults on-site.