OCOEE — For small varsity football programs, including many that compete in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, it’s not really uncommon to glance at a roster and see players in middle school or freshmen who would otherwise be playing for a junior varsity program.
So, in that regard, five players on CFCA’s roster for the spring football jamboree it hosted May 19 — players who are seventh- and eighth-graders in the current school year — aren’t that unusual.
Neither are the seven roster spots for current freshmen who will be sophomores in the fall.
What could be considered unique, though — and tantalizing if you’re a supporter of the Eagles — is the role that three of those 12 players played in the two scrimmages CFCA lined up for that evening against Windermere Prep and Orangewood Christian.
After losing last year’s quarterback, Gehrig Chambless, to an upcoming transfer, new Eagles coach John Davis tapped current eighth-grader Kai Patterson as the program’s quarterback. In two quarters apiece against the defending champion Lakers and newly added Rams, Patterson looked like anything but a middle-schooler.
“(Patterson) threw about five varsity (passes) today that were incredible,” Davis said. “What we have with him is a heady, smart player who is only going to grow — he’s an eighth-grader. He did a really good job.”
Patterson tossed a touchdown during the jamboree, and the player on the receiving end of that was current freshman Ajay Green. Green, a standout for the Eagles last winter in basketball, is a legitimate college football prospect with his combination of speed and athleticism. The tight end/defensive lineman, who isn’t yet old enough for a learner’s permit, is 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds.
Then there’s the youngest of the bunch, a player who is also honored as this week’s Athlete of the Week. Visual Russell is a seventh-grader but, again, that hardly seemed the case. He ran the ball 11 times for 67 yards in the jamboree (good for just under 6.1 yards per carry).
For a program dealing with two significant departures in the offseason — that of Chambless and of last season’s coach, Michael Bonneville, who led the team to a program-best 8-4 record in 2014 — it’s impressive to see the way CFCA played in its spring contest.
A knack for being a tough football team, with or without the size to back it up, is something that began under Bonneville and is continuing to grow under Davis — who indicated after the spring game that his program would be spending plenty of time in the weight room to try and change that qualifier.
All in all, it should be a lot of fun to watch these three youngsters drive the Eagles’ offense down the field this fall — even if they’re not old enough to drive themselves to class.