With practice for the 2022 high school football season getting under way Aug. 1, and our team previews starting shortly thereafter, I wanted to give everyone an appetizer of sorts for that main event.
I've compiled my list of the top 10 senior football players to watch at the four high schools in our coverage area: Riverview, Sarasota, Cardinal Mooney and Booker high schools. (Sorry, Sarasota Christian fans, your team will have to wait until next year for inclusion in preview stuff like this.) The list is in alphabetical order by last name, not by ranking or anything like that. It's also not necessarily the 10 "best" seniors, because what does "best" even mean when comparing from position to position?
The bottom line: the 10 who made it onto the list are players I am going to be keeping a close eye on this season, as I believe their play will go a long way toward their teams finding success. There are other great seniors who didn't make it. If you want to tell me about them, send me an email and I'll be happy to listen. For now, here's the list:
Deshun Abnar, Booker High
Abnar played quarterback for the Tornadoes during their spring game and performed well, showcasing good decision-making on option plays and creating plays with his legs. He also threw for a touchdown. Most of his completions came at or near the line of scrimmage, but that's a product of how Booker's offensive scheme was called — and it worked. Abnar's athletic ability should help the team win games this season.
Da'Marcus Abner, Riverview High
A physical defensive lineman with plenty of athleticism to get to the quarterback, Da'Marcus Abner had 16 tackles and three tackles for loss while playing on the interior last season. It appears as though Abner has improved since then; he had two sacks and three tackles for loss in the Rams' spring jamboree. Expect Abner and his brother, senior Dont'a Abner, to cause problems for opposing offensive lines all season long.
Cooper Flerlage, Cardinal Mooney High
A big, bruising presence on the outside for the Cougars. The 6-foot-4 Flerlage caught 31 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns in 2021. With a new quarterback taking over from the now-graduated Tayven Clark — and with last year's leading receiver, Ryan Matulevich, transferring to Venice High — the Cougars will rely on Flerlage as a steadying presence.
Maddox Marchbank, Sarasota High
One of the Sailors' locker room leaders, Marchbank also makes his impact felt on the field. Marchbank had 55 total tackles and 22 tackles for loss in 2021. He's also going to play on the offensive line this season and Sailors Coach Brody Wiseman told me during spring practice that Marchbank had been working harder than ever. That's a scary thought for opposing teams. He's guy who every school would want in the trenches.
Tyler Pack, Sarasota High
Sailors wideout Tyler Pack has good speed and good hands. He caught 16 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown in 2021. Expect those numbers to go up if Sarasota finds success on offense. Pack also appears to be playing some defensive back for the Sailors. He had an interception in the team's spring jamboree, which adds another intriguing element to his game.
Luke Petitta, Riverview High
A tight end, Petitta does not have many stats to go on, as the Rams did not throw the ball much in 2021 — and when they did, it usually went to either Michigan State signee Jaron Glover or all-world recruit Charles Lester III. With Glover now gone and a new starting quarterback, junior Jeremiah Dawson, running the offense, Petitta is getting a chance to show what he can do. He caught a touchdown in the team's spring jamboree along with a handful of other nice plays, and he's a willing blocker.
JR Rosenberg, Cardinal Mooney High
A punishing middle linebacker who also has shown the skills to contribute at H-back/tight end. Rosenberg had 108 total tackles in 2021, 71 of which were solo. Rosenberg showcases his tenacity on every play. He's a big reason why the Cougars allowed just 20.4 points a game. Another big year should be around the corner.
Stone Springman, Riverview High
Springman's a kicker. Normally I would not put a kicker on a list such as this — no offense, y'all — but Springman is good enough to be an exception. Kornblue Kicking, one of the two premier specialist rankings alongside Kohl's Kicking, ranks Springman No. 5 nationally and No. 1 in Florida. Springman's ability to hit clutch kicks should come in handy for the Rams in close games.
Gavin Stanford, Booker High
New Booker coach Scottie Littles is hoping for a quick turnaround, and Stanford is someone who can help accomplish that goal. He's a hard hitter at safety and can line up at wide receiver to not only provide catches but solid blocking in the Tornadoes' running game. Along with Abnar (above) and a few outside transfers, Stanford is one reason why Booker is primed to start its turnaround under Littles with no delay.
Lauriel Trotman III, Sarasota High
Trotman simply makes plays. I first watched him as a running back at Cardinal Mooney High in 2019. Then I watched him make plays as a safety/linebacker at Sarasota. Trotman had 78 total tackles last season — 13 for loss — plus three sacks and an interception. For a program on the rise, Trotman is a great guy to have in your pocket. He can do whatever you ask of him.
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.