By: J Daniel Pearson
Last year several outstanding football players transferred to Poinciana High, including Perry Garrett and Donald Cummings. Those athletes played a major role in the Eagles recording an 8-2 record – a school record for wins and just the second winning record in the two-plus decades since the school opened.
Head Coach Randy Beeken will be counting on several more incoming transfers in 2023, as the Eagles look to duplicate or exceed last year’s win total. Yet the fifth-year coach doesn’t consider the influx of talent as transfers but rather a homecoming.
“Over the years, particularly before the current staff arrived, we had a lot of great athletes leave the school for winning programs. A lot of the guys now transferring in were originally zoned to go to school here in the first place. I consider these guys as coming home and not transferring in.”
One of those players originally zoned for Poinciana is junior Cameron Brown, who is expected to take over at quarterback for graduated senior De’Kwan Bradley. Brown played his freshman season at Osceola, before transferring to Cypress Creek where he went 7-3 as a starter.
He will have a talented bevy of wide receivers and running backs at his disposal as he takes over the Poinciana offense. Those players include Osceola transfer and senior Akeem Knox, who will be the featured running back this year after playing behind Kowboys superstar Taevion Swint. Ernest Nunn (WR), Jaeden Gerard (WR), Wil Nezius (RB), Nathaniel Jeanninton (WR-transfer) and Amir Alli (WR-Transfer) are all explosive players who will contribute to the Eagles offense in 2023.
“We had our best season last year and a lot of it had to do with our seniors like Bradley, Garrett, Cummings, and Mike Centeno,” Beeken said. “But I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I wasn’t more excited about the players we have in camp right now. This is the most talented roster, especially on offense, since I have been here and most likely the best in school history.”
Defensively, the Eagles are talented but perhaps a little thin in the depth category. Linebacker Noah Otero is a four-year starter and the heart and soul of the Eagles defense. Bowser and Nunn are two-way stars that will shore up the defensive backfield; while Taurence Boland and Jason Batista are edge rushers who are coming off good seasons.
“Our depth on the offensive and defensive lines is my biggest concern entering the season,” Beeken says. “Our starters are solid, but right now we are only a few injuries away from it being a potential problem.”
A few scheduling problems resulted in the Eagles only having three home games in 2023. Still, Beeken believes every game on the schedule is winnable. Poinciana will open on the road with Nature Coast, a list-minute replacement for Celebration. They are the highest ranked team on Poinciana’s schedule but the Eagles will also face tough opposition from Horizon (Winter Garden) and Foundation Academy (Winter Haven) during the year.
As an independent, Poinciana was able to create and select all 10 of its opponents. “Our philosophy was to divide the schedule into thirds – a third of games we should win, a third of games that would be considered toss-ups and a third of games where we would have to play really well to win. I think it played out that way last year and this is a very similar schedule,’ Beeken said.
Poinciana is in its second year of independent status and will soon have to declare its status for the next two seasons. Beeken believes that as long as participation increases and team does well, the Eagles may very well return to District play next year. “A few years ago the program was about as low as it could be and going independent was the right choice for us,” he said. “If we can continue to build on the momentum of last season, there’s no reason to believe we can’t rejoin district play for next year.”
Kickoff Classic (Exhibition)
- Aug. 18 Avon Park 7 p.m.
- Aug. 25 at Nature Coast 7 p.m.
- Sept. 8 Hardee 7 p.m.
- Sept. 15 at Horizon 7 p.m.
- Sept. 22 at Teneroc 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 29 at Foundation Academy 7 p.m.
- Oct. 6 at Davenport 7 p.m.
- Oct. 13 at North Port 7 p.m.
- Oct. 20 Lake Buena Vista 7 p.m.
- Oct. 27 at Mulberry 7:30 p.m.
- Nov. 3 Liberty 7 p.m.