It’s not a stretch to say that Saint Stephen’s football has become the standard of excellence that all other schools measure themselves against in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. The Falcons have made four consecutive appearances in the SSAC Florida Bowl and won the independent state championship in 2016 and 2017.
Although they weren’t able to capture the school’s third consecutive SSAC title in 2018, falling to Orlando Christian Prep in the championship game, the Falcons capped off a four-year run in which SSES is 41-5. That stretch has been the culmination of a journey that seemed almost unimaginable when the program was relaunched in 2006 after a long hiatus.
Under two different head coaches, the Falcons failed to produce a winning season between 2006 and 2010 and went a combined 17-27, but the steady climb up the ladder of success began with the hiring of Head Coach Tod Creneti in 2011. After a winless first season, Creneti’s teams have gone 59-20, including 11-1 and 11-0 in their back-to-back state title campaigns. Those numbers, however, don’t completely tell the tale of the Falcons’ recent dominance.
Over the past four seasons, SSES has outscored opponents by an average score of 38-13. The Falcons won 24 consecutive games and went 743 days between defeats from Aug. 26, 2016 to Sept. 7, 2018. Creneti was named the Florida Dairy Farmers Coach of the Year following the 2017 season and a series of players have been honored with all-area, all-conference, and all-state recognition.
The emergence of Saint Stephen’s football has clearly created a new sense of excitement on campus. Friday game nights have become prime-time events, thanks to the high-powered Falcons and the enthusiastic Green & Gold fans that regularly fill the state-of-the-art Moore Athletic Complex (opened in 2013). Annual league games with local rivals Bradenton Christian and Out-of-Door Academy add spice to the schedule. SSES and ODA play yearly for the Headmaster’s Cup, a series the Falcons have owned since 2013 with seven consecutive victories.
Despite its brief football history, Saint Stephen’s has also had great success creating opportunities for its student-athletes at the collegiate level. In five of the past seven seasons, at least one Falcon has moved on to a NCAA Division I FBS or FCS program: Linebacker/tight end Tim Nutter (Furman/2013), linebacker Bradley Beazant (Rice/2014), offensive lineman Wyatt Knopfke (Boston College/2015), long snapper Jacob Westberry (Fresno State/2016), safety Sydney Brown (Illinois/2018), running back Chase Brown (Western Michigan/2018), and offensive lineman Josh Stevens (Georgetown/2018).