By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

The building of Tohopekaliga’s football team remains a work in progress, as veteran coach Anthony Paradiso wrapped up his second full year at the school on Tuesday night with a spirited 80-play scrimmage against Hagerty High School at Austin Tindall Park.

“We’ve made tremendous progress but there is still a lot of work to do,” Paradiso said at the conclusion of his third spring with the Tigers.  “It took a while, but our players are now starting to get comfortable with how we do things, what is expected of them academically and athletically — particularly as it pertains to off-season work.  We knew that was going to take some time but we have progressed to the point where can concentrate more on the game itself.”

Entering his third year, Paradiso took over a struggling 2-8 program in 2021 and posted back-to-back six win seasons – including a bowl game victory last year.   Although he feels his program continues on the right track, he does have some significant talent to replace for the 2024 season, after offensive standouts RB Churandy Duval (840 rushing yards, 466 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns), WR Delvin Pryor (52 receptions, 667 yards, 7 touchdowns) and Julian Nasco (90 receptions, 1274 yards, 13 touchdowns) all departed via graduation. But those are minor concerns according to Paradiso.  

Toho Tigers
Toho Tigers
Toho Tigers
Toho Tigers
Toho Tigers
Sabby Meassick

“It’s high school football and you are going to lose talented senior starters every year.  We return some good receivers anyways so that isn’t a major concern.  Churandy was an outstanding back for us, but Jaxson Hardnett is a young runner who will get his opportunity to replace him.”

After a relatively slow start, Hardnett had a solid scrimmage against Hagerty, rushing for 69 yards on just nine carries (7.6 yards per attempt) and catching four passes for 20 yards.   Regardless of who plays wide receiver and running back, Tohopekaliga will once again be a pass happy offense behind rising junior quarterback Sabby Meassick.

In two years as a starter, Meassick has already thrown for 6900 yards and 78 touchdowns.  In Tuesday’s scrimmage he completed 15 of 29 for 164 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.  Against more physical teams with great pass rushes in his first two seasons, Meassick would sometimes throw the ball up for grabs.  It is in that area that Paradiso continues to see vast improvement in the record setting quarterback.

“When the protection would break down, mistakes would happen, but it’s something you expect when you are playing a young quarterback,” Paradiso said.  “Sabby continues to improve his pocket presence and he continues to grow and has added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame.”

Tohopekaliga is in the process of rebuilding its defensive line after graduating several outstanding players, but is another area where Paradiso believes the Tigers will be okay.  “We return Andrew Hines (112 total tackles, 23 TFL and 12 quarterback sacks) who had a great year for us and we have several young players coming up from the junior varsity.”  Hines had a solid game in the Hagerty scrimmage recording a couple of sacks and applying some solid pressure throughout the game.

The Tigers, who played in the same district as St. Cloud, Osceola and Celebration last season, find themselves in a new three-team district for the next two years with Harmony and Lake Nona – the school that Paradiso coached at before accepting the Tohopekaliga job. 

“Our schedule and who are district opponents are going to be is something we just don’t think about.  You can’t control what district they put you in and we have never worried about any of our opponents anyways,” Paradiso said.  “What we worry about is working hard and preparing ourselves to play the best possible game we can play.  We worry about getting our players to excel in the class room, to graduate, to become good citizens, and help them play at the next level if that is their goal.  Being successful in those things is what matters and if you are successful worry about those things, winning will take care of itself.”


Touchdown Summary

  • H:  Brock Byson 55 pass from Caden Mitchell
  • H:  Jaylon Lewis 70 pass from Caden Mitchell
  • T:  Naeem Woulard 46 pass from Sabby Meassick
  • T:  Jaxon Hardnett 3 pass from Sabby Meassick
  • H:  Jaylon Lewis 12 Run
  • T:  Naeem Woulard 30 pass from Sabby Meassick
  • H:  Hunter Smith 38 Yard Interception Return
  • H: Jordan Ketton 4 pass from Caden Mitchell

2024 Tohopekaliga

Football Schedule

  • Aug. 23 at Melbourne
  • Aug. 30 Lyman
  • Sept. 6 Hagerty
  • Sept. 13 at New Smyrna Beach
  • Sept. 20 at Viera
  • Sept. 27 Harmony*
  • Oct. 4 Lake Brantley
  • Oct. 18 at St. Cloud
  • Oct. 25 at Lake Nona*
  • Nov. 1 Avon Park

*District Games