Sam Persichelli runs the ball during a practice session Tuesday. Canterbury will play Clearwater Academy Saturday in the state 7-man football championship. / Terry Allen Williams/news-press.com
Mirk Marciano coaches the Canterbury School 7-man football team during a practice session Tuesday. Canterbury will play Clearwater Academy Saturday in the state 7-man football championship. Canterbury will move to 11-man football next season. / Terry Allen Williams/news-press.com
Alex Rabinwitz,16, quarterbacks the Canterbury School 7-man football team during a practice session Tuesday. Canterbury will play Clearwater Academy Saturday in the state 7-man football championship. Canterbury will move to 11-man football next season. / Terry Allen Williams/news-press.com
Only one football banner hangs in the Canterbury gym. It reads, “11-1, 2011 six-man Florida State Champions”.
A program in just its third year of varsity football finds itself again playing for a Florida State Championship, this time on the seven-man level.
The football program has been put in the hands of Mike Marciano, the coach charged with leading a team of 23 total plays young men with just 95 males in the high school.
“I knew years ago that the support, school spirit and resources were here,” Marciano said. “But then I called [Athletic Director] Marc [Taglieri] and talked to him and saw how serious they were I knew this was the place for me.”
Marciano has implemented a weight training program with the team and had the guys in the weight room four days a week the entire summer.
Many of the players hadn’t even lifted weights before, but they quickly gained trust for Marciano and his system. That system has Canterbury at 13-0 heading into Saturday’s seven-man state championship game with Clearwater Academy in St. Petersburg.
Clearwater (12-0) is the No.1 ranked team in Florida according to Max Preps and boasts a high-powered offense which averages 56 points per game and a defense that allows just under 15 points per game.
Canterbury has a slightly better offense with a balanced running and passing attack. They average 58 points every time the Cougars step on the field.
“Clearwater is a great team. They’re the most similar team to us we are going to see,” Marciano said. “They spread it out very well they’re very disciplined and very well coached.”
“We have our hands full, 2009 state champions and some of those guys are still around, they know how to win and are undefeated so obviously they’re doing something right. If we don’t play our best game we’re going to come out on the wrong end of this one,” he said.
Regardless of the outcome of the game Canterbury will be making the jump to 11-man football next year playing an independent schedule.
Marciano said the move shouldn’t be too difficult with his offense. He picked up his spread an offense after a week study with West Virginia coaches, including head coach Rich Rodriguez.
“Really going from six to 11 would have been tough. I don’t feel like it’s going to be that big of a transition.” Marciano said. “We’re going to need some linemen type guys, that is going to be the biggest transition in the trenches. I have installed the 11-man offense at the seven-man level. Strength program, everything is in place.”
The Cougars will spend one or two years playing an independent schedule and Marciano has been in talks with Southwest Florida Christian, Community School of Naples, Gateway Charter and schools in Tampa and Orlando.
He said that he might have to travel the first year to get games for his team but he is ready for the challenge.
Marciano does have the added comfort of junior quarterback Alex Rabinowitz returning; he has thrown for 1,500 yards and ran for 700 on the ground in 13 games.
Rabinowitz said, “it’s definitely a move in the right direction,” and feels a championship Saturday will assist the team in the transition to 11-man.
“Definitely will be huge and something to build off of, give us some confidence and momentum for next year.”