Post Top 25 countdown: No. 17 Jupiter
Friday, August 17, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Taking over as head coach at Jupiter isn't an easy task, even for a veteran coach like Doug Uccelini.
Not only does the job require good politicking -- the Warriors have an active booster club and fan base -- it's also one that requires filling big shoes and coaching in one of the toughest districts around.
But replacing Charlie Persson, Jupiter's coach for 30-plus years, and playing in a district that features regular powers Palm Beach Gardens and Seminole Ridge doesn't faze Uccelini, who's been a defensive coordinator at Jupiter and Lake Worth before taking the Warriors' top job in January.
"That's what you want," Uccelini said. "You want to play top competition, not that we have a choice. You want to play the best."
Call it trial by fire, because the first-year coach's team will play the best right away. The Warriors have Dwyer, Gardens and Park Vista among their opening five games before an early October bye week. All three of those opponents are expected to be playoff contenders and Top-1o teams in the area, and the other two opponents, Boca Raton and John I. Leonard, are talented enough to cause headaches of their own.
Uccelini will handle that schedule with a young group. Jupiter graduated 27 seniors from last year's team, which was a disappointing 4-6 despite high pre-season hopes for breaking a playoff drought that's lasted since 2004. Among those who left was quarterback Tyler Cameron, a four-year starter who's now at Wake Forest.
Juniors Steven DeMeo and Griffin Garland are still battling for Cameron's old job, something Uccelini encourages at every position.
"We want the fight, we want the competition," he said. "We get huge turnouts for football each year here. We want everyone to be rooting for each other but also competing with each other for spots and playing time."
Dwyer transfer Matt McMahon will be a top contender for carries at running back, while seniors Leroy Johnson, a two-way tackle, and receiver/cornerback Josh Brooks are the undisputed team leaders in training camp.
Don't expect major changes from Jupiter's more recent looks on offense and defense -- Uccelini said Persson's systems are already in place, meaning they just need tweaking, not overhauling.
"We have a whole new team from last year," Uccelini said, "but the transition's been great, the kids are up for it. We know it'll be tough in this district, but we enjoy that."