The 2021 Seffner Christian Academy Crusaders look to build off of their success the past two seasons in which they won their region and made Final Four appearances. For the second straight season, they ran into back-to-back state champion Champagnat Catholic School in the semifinal. The team faced adversity in 2020, with several key players transferring to other schools before the season, but they were able to overcome that and make another playoff run. The 2021 version of the Crusaders are a very young, inexperienced team with 16 seniors graduating from the 2020 squad and adding 10 transfers. The new roster comprises many talented underclassmen.

Head Coach Travis Puelo, who is entering his fifth season as the Crusaders’ head man, is happy with his team’s off-season participation in workouts, seven-on-seven tournaments and camps. Puelo and his coaching staff are ecstatic with the talent of his younger core players and said that they are reloading, not rebuilding, and have a chance to compete right now.

His team’s strength will be his offensive line, which returns two seniors and adds another senior transfer. Senior lineman Bryce Canterbury, Joseph Cowans and Bloomingdale transfer Lance Walker will anchor the offensive line. Senior receiver/defensive back Jkobe Jones will be featured in every phase of the game, including special teams as a returner. Senior two-way player Ryan Longman will be featured in the offensive spread attack as a tight end, both blocking and pass catching, and he will also play defensive end. Sophomore Terek Mccant and junior Shykeem Johnson will split carries as the primary ballcarriers in a run-heavy offense. Senior receiver/safety Gerrald Morris will play key roles on offense and defense.

The quarterback position is a little more of a question mark. Two underclassmen will compete to lead the team as signal caller. Sophomore Aaron Turner, who showed promise in the spring game win, will compete against freshman Jordan Magwood. Both are considered dual-threat QBs.

Puelo and his team’s goals are to compete and win their region for a third straight season and move a step forward to the state championship game, while at the same time keeping the winning tradition alive. Puelo thinks the rapport he has with his coaching staff is second to none and said that is a big reason for his program’s success. His same staff has been together for multiple seasons—his defensive coordinator is now in his fifth season and his offensive line coach/passing game coordinator is in his fourth season.

Puelo and his staff believe that the team can take the next step if they become more physical at the point of attack while building depth and limiting mental mistakes on the field in the big games. Their slogan is ‘Chasing greatness.’ He believes that his team has a chance to have the highest team GPA ever at Seffner Christian Academy as well. Look for the Crusaders to have another deep playoff run.

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.