Everything matters for Tigers as spring football practice opens
The Holy Trinity Tigers go through some passing drills under the watchful eye of head coach Nate Hooks Jr. during spring practice.
VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
The Holy Trinity Tigers have hit the field for spring football practice with two mottos from head coach Nate Hooks Jr. to follow:
Winning Matters (because everyone keeps score).
And perhaps more importantly …
“The way you put your cleats away in the locker room. The way you put your helmet. The way you act in class. The grades that you’re getting. Listening in the huddle. … The way you speak to people. Keeping your word,” Hooks said.
“Everything matters. Just do the right thing all the time.”
The Tigers are coming off the best season in program history after reaching the Class 3A regional semifinals. And while Holy Trinity will graduate a number of key players from that team, the Tigers have plenty of talent coming back.
“I think we’ll pretty good,” rising junior Ja’Lon Hudgins said. “We’re always smaller than everybody, but we’re quicker and faster than everyone. I think we’ll be better than we were last year.”
Holy Trinity will get its first chance to show off what the 2019 season might hold on May 17 when the Tigers travel to Keswick Christian High in St. Petersburg for a jamboree at 7 p.m. that will also include Indian Rocks and Out-of-Door Academy.
Hudgins, who made several starts at quarterback as a freshman, is ready to take over the reins again for the Tigers. In addition to being bigger, stronger and faster now, he said he feels more comfortable and more poised than he was two years ago.
Watching Dru Nickson quarterback the Tigers last year taught Hudgins some valuable lessons.
“I learned (how to take control of the offense and stay composed, even when he makes a mistake,” he said.
Hooks said Hudgins is “light years” better than he was two years ago.
“He played against American Heritage and Jacksonville Bolles as a ninth grader,” Hooks said. “Now, he’ll be an 11th grader, and with the luxury of having two D-I guys in the backfield when we go split backs … that’s a nice security blanket for Ja’Lon to get going.”
Hooks was referring to rising junior running back Larry Hill, who already holds offers from schools like South Carolina and Iowa State, and rising senior transfer Kevin Chandler, who is expected to get some offers as well.
The Tigers also have a highly-recruited wide receiver in James BlackStrain, who is expected to re-join the team mid-season once he recovers from a knee injury sustained during basketball season.
Defensively, rising senior Trey Palmer holds offers from Cornell and Georgetown.
In addition to all of their returners, the Tigers are also seeing the benefits of last year’s success. Whereas last year’s team finished the season with around 20 players, the Tigers are expecting to have 30 or more come the all.
“There’s a lot of excitement coming off the best season in school history,” Hooks said. “A lot of guys are coming out. And that’s fine. Even if they’re not three-star or four-star guys, they’re guys who want to be part of the program, part of the whole experience. That’s good. I’m not cutting anyone.”
While Hudgins said he was happy to be back with his brothers on the football field, Hooks said he was pleased with the way the team has looked over the first few days of practice.
“I like what I see,” the Tigers coach said. “Especially since a lot of the playmakers are running track or playing baseball. That’s promising. Along with some guys we have coming in, we’re going to be pretty good.”