Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bulldogs Are Big Underdogs; Bolles Had to Grow Up Fast This Season, Now Faces Nation's No. 1 Team

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bulldogs Are Big Underdogs; Bolles Had to Grow Up Fast This Season, Now Faces Nation's No. 1 Team

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Barney

Playing for a state championship each December is common for Bolles.

This time it feels different, however.

As much as it seems like the same old story - the Bulldogs (10-3) playing heavily favored Miami Booker T. Washington (13-0) for the Class 4A state championship Saturday night in the Orlando Citrus Bowl - it is far from the same old story.

What makes this year so different for Bolles and coach Corky Rogers? Experience, and the lack of it on this year's team.

The number of underclassmen on Bolles' two-deep chart is substantial.

On offense, Bolles starts a pair of freshmen - right guard Cody Mercer and wingback E.J. Porter. Defensively, the Bulldogs entire secondary is composed of sophomores - Joey Frisco, Joe King, Trenton McGhee and Bryce Newman. Linebacker Kyle Johnson is also a starting sophomore. Nine backups are also freshmen or sophomores.

For the most dominant program in state history with 11 championships, that's a staggering amount of youth.

"There's never been ninth-graders like that; there might have been one since I've been here," Rogers said. "Our numbers aren't quite as big as we've had before. But I am really proud of what they've accomplished. They've learned each week and gotten better. Are we where we need to be right now? Probably not. I'm proud of what we've done. The kids deserve to get to this spot. Nobody gives you anything; you have to work for it."

Rogers knew going into the season that any sort of deep playoff run would have to include major contributions from players who were role players on varsity last year, or who didn't even play at that level until this season. For as many big names as the Bulldogs brought back - Christian Bermudez, Dexter Carter Jr., Michael Cassidy, Tyrell Moorer - the younger players were more prevalent. Bolles has just three starting seniors on offense and five on defense. …

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