New, younger Clewiston Tigers team looks to rebound

CLEWISTON — Second-year head coach Brad Garret wasn’t happy with the Tigers’ record of 5-5 for the 2017 season, and in 2018 not only is he hoping to perform better, he’s hoping Clewiston will get to play the games when they’re actually scheduled.

“For the first eight games we played last year, we were either delayed to a different day or to an hour and a half back due to weather,” explained Garret. “But practice has being going well this year. The kids have been showing up prepared, they’ve adjusted well and they know what we expect.”

The Tigers will be fielding a younger team this year after losing 25 seniors following the 2017 season. Thirteen of those seniors were starters on just one side of the ball.

“We lost a quarterback who took over late in the year and did a good job,” said Garret. “He was also our starting safety. Then we lost three of our starting defensive linemen and two starting corners. We lost our tailback in Markevious Terry who was around a 600- or 700-yard rusher. That’s a lot of key guys that were very valuable to this football program.”

One key veteran returning to the team this year is senior running back Trayquan Williams, who rushed for 110 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries in the Tigers’ preseason game against Avon Park on Aug. 17. Williams earned those stats running behind an offensive line containing only one player with previous experience.

Still, despite the youth and relative inexperience of the team, Clewiston came out on top against Avon Park 14-0 in their kick-off classic.

“We started off the game against Avon Park really well,” Garret said.

“We moved the ball up and down the field. I think we scored on the first three plays. Our defense only gave up two first downs the whole game.”

But coach Garret isn’t taking that shutout in the preseason as a sign that the Tigers’ defense will be a dominant force in 2018.

“After that game a lot of people were walking around here talking about how dominant our defense is, but I’m not going to say anything until I see how we play against somebody that’s worth that praise,” Garret said.

The first game of the regular season may bring an opponent that Clewiston defense would be able to brag about if they pitch another shut out performance.

The Tigers face the Fort Myers Green Wave in Clewiston on Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Much like the green algae over the summer, the Green Wave dominated Clewiston during last year’s season opener, winning 33-7.

“Fort Myers has a good football program, they’re big, they’re physical and they’re good at what they do,” explained Garret. “They’ve been doing it for a long time. We were feeling good about the game last year heading into it. We started out well, it was 10-7 early in the game, but it was downhill from there. And I’ve told the team this year that they’re going to be facing a good football team. There’s going to busted plays, there’s going to be mishaps, but I think it’s going to be a good game if we are able to fight through some adversity.”

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