EAST LAKE — The East Lake High football program will find itself in a familiar position come next fall.
Several high-end talents from the previous year are off to college, leaving behind a team pegged as really good, but perhaps not great.
That’s where the Eagles were at the start of the 2013 season after losing strong-armed, Division-I quarterback Pete DiNovo.
Then East Lake won all 10 of its regular-season games and advanced to the Class 7A state final four — farther than any other group in school history.
Similar expectations of grandeur and competing for title trophies fill the Eagles’ locker room for 2014.
“We’re highly motivated right now, no matter what,” said rising senior wide receiver George Campbell. “That loss last year to Dwyer (in the state semis), that’s the toughest loss we’ve ever had. That was a big one for me. What I want to do is bounce back and hopefully get back there and get past that step.”
Campbell, 6-foot-4, 187 pounds and with a 4.36 40-yard speed, is regarded as one of the nation’s top college recruits. He will again be tasked with providing the dynamic, game-changing sparks that elevate East Lake to the championship level it aspires to reach.
The frequency and explosiveness of those moments will depend on how proficiently the entire Eagles offense executes its new attack. Coach Bob Hudson and his staff began installing an up-tempo system that utilizes plenty of no-huddle sequences about four weeks ago.
Judging by last Friday’s spring game at Osceola High, Hudson’s players appear to be ahead of the curve.
The Eagles’ varsity starters and backups piled up 349 yards and scored on all six of its possessions over three quarters during a 38-14 win that expanded to 54-14 after junior varsity players tacked on two more touchdowns.
“I thought for putting the offense in three weeks ago it was pretty effective,” Hudson said Friday. “Communicating and speeding up, we’ve got to get better at that still, but we knew we would.”
The play of rising senior quarterback Jake Hudson will determine much of East Lake’s 2014 success, his father and coach said. “A lot of it starts with Jake,” Bob Hudson said. “Every play he has anywhere from three to five choices of what to do with the ball. So we’re putting a lot in (his) hands.”
Jake Hudson responded impressively Friday, making his reads and completing 13 of 15 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns.
“We had to switch it up from last year,” he said. “We can’t just hold up; we have to be a little more fast-paced. The whole offense really likes it, and they’re all starting to get comfortable with it now.”
Two of Hudson’s TD passes ended up in the skilled hands of his favorite target, Campbell.
“Our receivers coach, coach (Devin) Reed, said that we needed some electricity and some fire and that’s what I brought,” Campbell said. “But not only did I bring it, but we had Bryce Miller, Zach Jarman, and Jake threw some good balls and made some great plays.”
Campbell and his fellow Eagles now have an entire summer to fine-tune and charge up their new system. If it develops according to plan, all that generated electricity may be lighting up scoreboards well into December once again.