Jesuit football making summer strides after strong spring

Jesuit High graduated three productive receivers from last year’s state championship team and rising junior Jack Earnest will look to be one of quarterback Luke Knight’s new favorite targets.

TAMPA — As an unbeaten defending state champion, there’s no problem with holding your head up a little higher and preparing for the upcoming season with confidence.

Despite losing several key pieces from last fall’s Class 6A title team, Jesuit High looks ready to compete with some of the area’s and state’s best once again. Anyone looking for added confirmation of the Tigers’ talent can take a look at this spring’s showing against Palmetto High.

Palmetto qualified for the Class 7A postseason last year and defeated Wiregrass Ranch soundly in the region quarterfinal. Also the Tigers, Palmetto represented a formidable spring opponent for Jesuit, but that didn’t stop the champs from rolling to a 45-23 road win prior to the game ending abruptly because of gunfire outside of the stadium.

One vital piece of the offense will be back this fall and that is starting quarterback Luke Knight, who led Jesuit to its first state championship since 1968 as a sophomore. Knight threw for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns last season and he picked up where he left off against Palmetto.

Knight isn’t alone as a returner on the offensive end. Rising senior running back Joquez Smith rushed for 1,976 yards in 2021 and will be expected to push for 2,000 yards on the ground this fall. Expect to see linebacker Troy Bowles logging time on offense, as he caught a touchdown pass from Knight in the spring.

Some other players people will need to watch for is wide receiver Jarriet Buie, who caught 32 passes for 402 yards, and Drew Woodaz, the younger brother of 2022 grad and Clemson signee Wade Woodaz, who is back in the fold and could end up being as good or better than his sibling. One player turning heads at 7-on-7’s lately is sophomore Justin Thurman, who could be seeing time next to Smith at running back.

The Tigers had a very good spring and in the new 3A Metro District 5, Jesuit isn’t just aiming for another league championship and regional title. The program waited more than 50 between state titles, but this accomplished bunch looks to be in contention for a repeat. 

Andy Villamarzo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.