Former UCF QB Ryan Schneider takes over Tigers
ABOVE VIDEO: Space Coast Daily’s Alan Zlotorzynski and Jordan Rocco continue prep football camp reports with a look at the Cocoa Tigers. The Tigers are led by brand new head coach and former UCF Knight quarterback Ryan Schneider. The Tigers are looking to win their fifth state championship. Jordan Rocco speaks with Coach Schneider and Allen Pierce while Alan speaks with Willie Gaines and RaShean Lynn.
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – The Cocoa Tigers had a tremendous 2017 season by making it to the 4A state championship for the second year in a row.
Under Space Coast Sports Hall of Famer John Wilkinson, the Tigers won eleven games and dominated in the postseason by not trailing once until the state championship game vs. Raines.
After the 2017 football season coach Wilkinson decided it was time to move on from the Tigers and accepted the head coaching job for the New Smyrna Barracudas, where he will also get to coach his son.
The new sheriff in town is Ryan Schneider. Aside from being the second all-time leading passer for the UCF Knights, Schneider has quite a bit of coaching experience under his belt.
Last season, Schneider was the Offensive Coordinator for Melbourne Central Catholic where the Hustlers offense averaged 34 points per game and totaled 3,108 yards of total offense.
Prior to that, Schneider was the Offensive Coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas and University School where he won three state championships with head coach Roger Harriott.
ABOVE VIDEO: This season all eyes will be on Senior athlete Willie ‘Playstation’ Gaines. As a junior last season, Gaines rushed for 1,349 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Being a former signal caller himself, Schneider has pledged to revamp the Cocoa Tigers offense and throw the football more in 2018. The Tigers have been installing a fast tempo, spread offense during the offseason and are working hard on the conditioning required to be successful for four quarters with that style of play.
The Tigers have two quarterbacks capable of leading the offense. Sophomore Diego Arroyo, a transfer from Vero Beach and Senior Ryan Thomas, a transfer from Mantanzas High in Palm Coast, Florida. Both are battling for the starting job.
This season all eyes will be on senior athlete Willie ‘Playstation’ Gaines. As a junior last season, Gaines rushed for 1,349 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Most of those yards and touchdowns occurred during the second half of the season when he was forced into the starting role after current Louisville Cardinal freshman Javian Hawkins was injured.
Gaines will continue to play both ways for the Tigers playing in Cocoa’s defensive secondary. Gaines had an interception in the state championship game last December.
Four-star junior standout Caziah Holmes will be the starting running back for the Cocoa Tigers. Holmes will also continue to play in the Tigers secondary where he has been a great asset the past two seasons.
Holmes is also a track star and last season placed tenth in the 100 meters at the 2A State Championship. He has the speed and athleticism it takes to become the Tigers next star running back.
Senior receiver Rashean Lynn is looking to make a big impact this season. Standing 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighing 184 pounds, Lynn has the size and speed that scare defensive backs and force coordinators to game plan for him.
Last season Lynn made several big plays for the Tigers offense finishing the year with 293 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Lynn, who has 15 plus offers from D1 schools, is expected to be a major factor in coach Schneiders new offense.
The Tigers have a young, but big offensive line that will play a big role for the Tigers offense. Returning for the Tigers on the offensive line are juniors Hunter Gfell, Richard Leonard and senior Nicholas Parks.
Leonard played a huge role for the Tigers offensive line last season and had a busy offseason as he fielded offers from eight division one schools.
You can expect to see a lot of new faces playing for the Tigers defense this season starting with new coordinator Marcus Wilder.
Coach Wilder is well aware of the Tigers tradition of being fast, strong and aggressive in their approach and has no plans to change it.
Viera transfer Brock Holland comes to Cocoa for his senior season. The 2017 First Team All-Space Coast Daily / Friday Night Locker Room Linebacker had a total of 102 tackles, including 61 solo tackles and seven sacks last season.
Alongside Holland will be senior Allen Pierce who is a fast, hard-hitting linebacker looking to have a breakout season.
The Tigers are very strong when it comes to the defensive secondary. Juniors Caziah Holmes, Chavis Thompson and seniors Tyrique Sears and Latrell Pace should lock down most if not all opposing receivers in 2018.
Sophomore defensive tackle Dajavon ‘DaDa’ White, who has started on varsity since eighth grade, will lead the Tigers defensive line. Juniors JT Wade and Marquise Freeman will join White in clogging up the middle of the field while forcing offensive lines back in passing situations.
ABOVE VIDEO: Alex Petruzzello has been nearly perfect for the Tigers during his five-year career and he especially shined for Cocoa in the Class 4A State Championship game where he hit his career long of 46 yards.
No matter how good you are on offense and defense, having a good kicker at the high school level can make all the difference and the Tigers have arguably one of the best in the region in senior Alex Petruzzello.
Petruzzello has been nearly perfect for the Tigers during his five-year career and he especially shined for Cocoa in the Class 4A State Championship game where he hit his career long of 46 yards.
Petruzzello is also the punter for the Tigers where he averaged nearly 40-yards per punt last season and he pinned opposing teams inside the 20-yard line six times.
One thing is for sure, the Tigers won’t be accused of playing an easy schedule. Although a state championship is a goal for every single player and coach on the Tigers, returning to Camping World Stadium for the third year in a row will be a challenge.
They begin their season at home against Clearwater and then the following week, face Palm Bay at home. Their first four games of the season will be a stiff test but the meat of the schedule is ahead of them.
After their Sept. 14 bye week, the Tigers hit the road for four straight games.
They travel to Viera to face a tough Hawks squad they have never lost to but needed to come from behind and double OT to get the win last season.
Following three more road games at Glades Central, Mainland and Bradford the Tigers return home to face 7A State Championship runner-up Bartram Trail. The Tigers then travel to play traditionally tough Pahokee before returning home to face their rivals, the Rockledge Raiders in the Barbecue Bowl.
Cocoa lost to Rockledge in another double overtime thriller last year ending their 42-game winning streak against Brevard County teams.
New head coach Ryan Schneider is expected to carry the tradition of a dominant Cocoa High school football team, but it will not be easy for the first year head coach.
The Tigers possess plenty of talent on both sides of the ball with athletes everywhere capable of making game-changing plays. Willie Gaines is expected to lead the Tigers offense, while Brock Holland is looking to make a name for himself on his new team on defense.
Although the schedule is tough, it should prepare the Tigers for a stretch run that has them in position to travel back to Orlando in early December.
There is no reason the Tigers shouldn’t return to Camping World Stadium for a third straight year and compete for a Class 4a crown but don’t be surprised if they’ll need to get past an old nemesis to do it in Booker T.
Quarterback Daniel Richardson is a senior and after missing the playoffs altogether last year the Tornadoes should be feisty and back in the 4A mix in 2018.
Jordan Rocco: 9-1, Class 4A Championshipnship Game Appearance
Alan Zlotorzynski: 8-2 Class 4A State Semifinals
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