Notes from Florida road trip: Part 2

COCOA, Fla. -- For a player midway through his junior season Cocoa (Fla.) running back Tarean Folston has accomplished a lot.

He already has two state championships, has played two games at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas and one at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder has carried Cocoa through a rough schedule. The three-time defending state champions are normally dominant but with competition that included Colerain (Cincinnati), Skyline (Dallas) and Miami Central, the Tigers are 4-4 going into their final district game this weekend.

The losses don't matter to Folston as long as the team is still competiting for state championships.

“We've had a tough schedule but we wanted to face the great competiiton and get an idea of what it takes to be the best in the nation,” Folston said. “We're still at the top of our district and on pace to win another ring. That's really what's it's about.”

Folston gained over 1,200 yards last season sharing the backfield with Chevelle Buie, who signed with East Carolina. Now as the lead back in a three-back rotation, Folston has stepped up as a team leader.

“We've got a first-year starter at quarterback and a pretty good backfield but Tarean is just one of those players that you know you can rely on,” coach John Wilkinson said. “He's been carrying us a lot this season.”

Folston knows that his recruiting stock is rising but he chooses to focus on another title now and let the recruiting wait until the offseason.

“I figure if I'm a good prospect with two state championships, imagine what I will be with three state championships,” Folston joked.

Folston says he grew up watching the Miami Hurricanes and watching a lot of football in the colleges and the pros. He attended the Miami-Kansas State game earlier this year.

“I enjoyed it, I was just watching the sort of formations they run out of and the blocking schemes,” Folston said. “Lamar Miller is one of my favorite running backs so it's important for me to see why he's so successful.”

Folston said he also enjoys watching Florida's Chris Rainey and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore because each back brings something different to the table.

“Both of them can run and catch, Rainey runs with speed and Lattimore can wear you down,” Folston said. “He's also a great blocker and that's something I want to do more of.”

Folston said outside of Miami he generally follows teams in the Southeast.

Olympia's young talent

While defensive tackle James Hamilton gets a lot of the headlines for Olympia (Orlando) this year there are a crop of promising young players that should emerge in the next 12 months.

Defensive end/outside linebacker Ramar Dennis is a 6-2, 225-pound junior who is among the leaders on the team in tackles (62) and sacks (six). He has already received a ton of interest from schools in and outside of the state.

“I've heard from Florida, Miami, Notre Dame and a few others,” Dennis said. “I'm actually pretty interested in Northwestern because of the program and the academics.”

Dennis says that one in-state team also stands out.

“I like South Florida,” Dennis said. “I like the way they come after it on defense and it's close to home. They are a program on the rise and they play a lot of young players.”

Dennis said he's hoping to get to the Nov. 19 Miami-South Florida game along with Hamilton.

On offense, sophomore Colby Brown has over 1,000 yards passing and eight touchdowns on the season. At 6-foot-2, 180-pounds the first-year starter has seen his responsibilities in the passing game increase over the last month.

His favorite target is John Armstrong, a 5-7 all-purpose back that leads the team in rushing (790 yards, 11 touchdowns) and receiving (40 catches, 397 yards, 2 touchdowns).

“John is really a gem and he can do anything with a football,” said coach Bob Head. “He's still a junior and he's putting on weight, getting bigger and keeping his speed.

“He can catch, run, and he has a 99-yard kickoff return this year.”