Take that, St. Stephens.

It was a huge step for Windermere Prep on Friday. The Lakers realized a goal they had set ever since losing to Bradenton St. Stephens Episcopal in last year’s Sunshine State Athletic Conference state championship game.

Windermere Prep didn’t just lose. The Lakers got rolled 49-21 and from that moment, they not only vowed to exact revenge, but they also wanted to make sure they didn’t fall short of the state title this time around.

The Lakers are on a mission now and have started out impressively with a 3-0 record after victories over Lakewood (Calif.) 28-2, Jacksonville Eagle’s View 49-0 and victory over St. Stephens 35-21. So far, that’s 30 points per game average margin of victory.

The St. Stephens victory was a statement win for this program, which has solidified itself as one of the best small-school football teams in the state and joins the mass revival of small private-school football in Orlando. Teams like Orlando Christian Prep, Masters Academy, Foundation Academy and Mount Dora Christian Academy are no longer teams that are going to get kicked around, even when playing bigger schools.

They might not play in the FHSAA playoff format, but these are teams with legitimate talent.

Windermere Prep has been built up under the leadership of head coach and athletic director Jacob Doss, the former Wyoming quarterback who uses his own experiences to get his point across to the young people in his program.

“I’ve been there. I tell them that all the time, ‘What you’re trying to do, I’ve been there,’ ” Doss said. “I used to say that with a badge of honor, but now these guys are stronger than me, they’re faster than me, they can throw farther than me and it’s really cool to see that.

“You can always go back and say, ‘Hey, there’s a story here that I can relate to where you’ve been. I’ve got three guys on my staff who played in the NFL … I think that really helps and football, it’s given me so much in my life and I hope these kids can get a chance to see where it can give them so much if they take advantage of it.”

Doss said he wouldn’t want to do anything else, anywhere else.

“I love it. It sounds corny, but if I won the lottery next week and won millions of dollars, I would still do this,” Doss said. “I love what I do and we have a very unique deal here. Everybody wants other people to be successful here.”

What helps Windermere’s 2018 squad be so successful are four players in particular in Pittsburgh commit safety Khadry Jackson, linebacker Mason Russell, quarterback Kai Patterson and offensive tackle Jared Blount.

Russell has been at Windermere Prep since sixth grade and he’s since the program build its way up top what it is now. It’s not just a basketball school any more.

“I think it’s incredible. … The foundation that all of the other players in the past have laid has just made this unbelievable, really,” said the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Russell. “I could never have imagined this from my sixth-grade year.”

Russell is the heart of the defense at middle linebacker, and he also plays H-back on offense. He leads the team with an average of nearly 10 tackles per game.

“Really it makes me proud because at an individual level we’re able to push each one of our payers to be the best that they can,” said Russell, who is entertaining scholarship offers from a number of high academic schools, include some Ivy League programs, “and that we’re having so much success within this close-knit family is what’s really impressive.”

Patterson leads the way from his quarterback spot, and he too is a high academic achiever with the same type of programs as with Russell showing him interest like Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Georgetown, Colgate, etc. For Patterson, his size, at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, has been the lone drawback for college recruiters. Through three games, Patterson has an impressive 64-percent completion rate and thrown for 582 yards and five touchdowns while completing 32 of 50 passes.

“I think the season got off to a great start and one thing we had going into the season we were all together as a team and worked real hard this offseason,” Patterson said. “I think everything is going great right now … It’s a blessing and I’m grateful to be in this situation.”

Other key contributors include Najii Allen, the leading rusher with 207 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, and Dharius Daniels, the leading receiver with 12 catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

The big college prospect has been Jackson, who committed to Pitt during the summer. Jackson stands out among his peers with great size at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, and he’s also very athletic and can play about anywhere for the Lakers, from tight end, running back and receiver on offense to defensive end, linebacker or safety on defense.

“It’s a blessing and I’m just thanking God for it and my coaches and my teammates, because without them it wouldn’t be possible,” Jackson said of his scholarship offer to Pitt. “We have a great coaching staff with a lot of college and NFL experience … them just giving us the insight they have … I’m just thankful for it and I continue to work hard.”

Article originally from The Orlando Sentinel