PINELLAS PARK, FLORIDA – When Kenneth Crawford stepped down as Pinellas Park’s head coach after the 2021 season, the school didn’t have to look too far away to find his replacement.
The Patriots in January ended up promoting offensive coordinator Max Smith to the head coach position and it’s not the first rodeo for him as the lead man of a program. Smith was formerly the head coach at Dunedin and Boca Ciega before landing at Pinellas Park under Crawford.
After 95 wins and 13 seasons, Crawford now paves the way for Smith, who had to set the tone with a good spring game for Pinellas Park. The Patriots ended up facing off against a perennially strong Braden River team, whom Smith was able to schedule and felt his team competed well versus a good football program.
“When I took over in January, I had to schedule a spring game,” Smith said. “I wanted to try and find an opponent who was out of county, and playoff caliber. I found that in Braden River. Great program. They were 9-1 last year and they play in the playoffs every year.”
“I thought having a tough spring game, would help keep the players’ focus throughout the spring. I believe it did that and we played really well against a strong opponent. We ended up losing a close game, but I do think we accomplished a lot in the spring and the game itself. The game proved to us that a strong program reloads after a big senior class.”
Pinellas Park went 9-2 last season and lost in the region quarterfinal round against Hillsborough, 33-27, and now the Patriots have to replace a lot of key starters on both sides of the ball. Smith points out in the spring game, the Patriots had nine new starters on defense and eight new starters on offense. The Patriots have several new names that people should get used to, including outside linebacker James McDougald, linebacker Jerek Fields and defensive tackle Javon Williams.
“Overall, I believe the spring game proved that our new leaders can perform at a high level against a playoff caliber team,” Smith said. “It also helps build the player to coach trust. We are trying to replace an excellent head coach. It is my job to build trust with the players, that our new staff can keep this program moving in the right direction.”
There will be a different form of attack the Patriots will deploy against opposing defenses this summer/fall, as Smith has implemented more of a spread offense, moving away from Pinellas Park’s staple Wing-T. With the team now going into a transitioning from a run-first to more of a balanced offensive attack through the spread, it gives Smith more comfort heading into the 2022 campaign.
“People will see a lot of similarities on Friday night for sure,” Smith said. “The biggest difference will be our offensive strategy. We will be moving away from the Wing-T and playing in more of a spread style attack. The Wing-T is a great offense. I am more comfortable with what I have run in the past.
“I have been fortunate to work with some great offensive minds at different levels including the college level. I will use all of my knowledge to figure out the best way to score as many points as I can. We will get our best 11 on the field and let it rip.”
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.