Nate Hooks, Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy’s head football coach, led his team to a state playoff win for the first time last year. So he was curious to see right away how the squad would respond at Melbourne Central Catholic in a rare preseason meeting.
The Holy Trinity Tigers lost, 14-13, but showed many encouraging signs. The Tigers then jumped out to a 3-0 regular-season start, but have lost their last three.
But Hooks got a good feeling about what 2019 could bring right away.
“It’s always good to find out what happens when the bullets start flying,” he said. “We definitely had positives.”
“There were 40 seconds left and had a 58-yard bomb (from Ja’lon Hudgins) and elected to go for two (points). We didn’t make it but we got an idea of what could happen if we ended up in that situation later in the year, so I was pleased with that. … It’s still ball 100 miles an hour now.’’
Playing fast is Holy Trinity’s game, with speed to burn opponents once again.
Hooks was known for speed while playing college football at Tennessee Tech. Can fans expect more of the same?
“I was excited for the players and even the way that we won, it was something those guys will remember the rest of their lives’’ he said of a late TD pass to go ahead 34-30 in the final seconds in the playoffs last year. “We definitely have to build on last season. There’s no way we can build and then take a step back. That’s the reality of the situation.’’
Six of the Tigers’ players are top college recruits. Holy Trinity has had 169 Division 1 scholarship offers in five seasons.
“I only have a roster of 23 and six of them are Division 1 prospects,’’ Hooks said. “We have been fortunate of building a pretty good program.’’
Seventeen starters departed from last year’s team. Running backs Kevin Chandler and Larry Hill are solid. Receiver James Blackstrain is an ESPN 300 recruit.
Defensive back Trey Palmer, fellow receiver Demetrius Robinson, who is 6-foot-5, and quarterback Hudgins are being recruited for overall athletic skills by colleges.
Hooks feels offense is “definitely’’ the team’s strength this year.
Benji Nicks is the seventh college recruit as NAIA schools like his offensive line skills at guard. He’ll also likely get strong looks as a defensive end.
“I just go 100 miles per hour,’’ Hooks said of coaching style. “We don’t do the no-huddle, we run multiple offenses predicated on speed.’’
Chandler already has college offers from Air Force, Navy, Miami of Ohio and Western Kentucky.
Hill has offers from Western Kentucky, Colorado State and Middle Tennessee State.