The Spoto football program may have struck gold when it hired Head Coach Alfred Smith. Smith is in his second year as the Spartans’ head man, and he has already made huge strides. The football team went from a roster of 19 when Smith was hired to a current roster of 90-plus players. The Spartans, who usually struggle on the field, beat Brandon 28-0 in their spring game.

Smith believes in recruiting potential football players from within the school’s hallways instead of poaching them from other schools. He has converted athletes from other sports into football players and has gotten his school to buy into the program as a whole. The last coach had problems getting potential players who didn’t have access to the internet to sign up for football because of the new online athletic packet that was introduced a few years ago. Smith has solved that problem by setting up a sign-up day in the school’s computer lab where he can walk parents through the packet. He prides himself in putting his players in college. Over the course of his career, 98 of his players have gone on to play at the next level.

Smith brings a long pedigree of success and a lot of coaching knowledge to the program, having 24 years of coaching experience under his belt. He has made it to the playoffs 18 times out of his 24 total years of coaching. He was most recently the offensive coordinator for Flagler Palm Coast High School, between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach, for four years. He was head coach at Crescent City High School from 2012-16 in Putnam County, winning three district championships and making the playoffs four out of five seasons. Smith recently became an empty nester and wanted a new challenge in his coaching career. He also was ready for a move to Florida’s opposite coast, which made Spoto the right fit for him. He turned down another head coaching job in Boca Raton to become the Spartans’ head man.

The Spartans have two players that are splitting snaps, competing for the starting quarterback job. Senior Dominick Casberg is an athletic kid who does really well in the weight room and has a strong arm with good mechanics, and senior Newsome transfer Hunter Dolloff, who came to the team right before summer, throws a nice intermediate ball and has a great football IQ.

Spoto’s major strength will be their massive offensive line that contains two Division 1 prospects that are both 6’6” and over 300 pounds—captains Giovanni Jackson and Anthony Walker, who has garnered some interest from Princeton. They return five players on offense. Sophomore guard Tyrese Gissendanner has major potential and senior guard Deangelo Lockhart has interest from Florida A&M University. They will run a multiple look offense that will contain many different sets. Captain running back LeBron Nelson is very fast and explosive, and he is strong in the weight room, benching 315 pounds and squatting 475 pounds. Senior receiver Jacobie Dilworth statistically is one of the top 15 receivers in Hillsborough County.

The team also has a lot of talent on defense, with five returning starters. Junior safety Dominic Smith has an offer from Syracuse University. Senior captain middle linebacker Rahim Whatts is very physical and will pack a punch up the middle.

Smith said that his team can improve on its football IQ—understanding the game better, as well as concepts, terminology and the reason why they do things. His goal is for his team to get better every week.

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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.