Tarean Folston finding his groove

It was a good week for both Tarean Folston and three-time defending state champion Cocoa High School.

Folston got back on track with a 144-yard, three touchdown performance, and the Tigers won their first game of the season defeating small-school powerhouse Warner Christian (South Daytona) on Saturday, 55-0.

Normally, such a win wouldn’t be news – Cocoa came into the season riding a 38-game winning streak. However, the Tigers found the treading a bit tough to begin the 2011 campaign.

They dropped a pair of losses on the road to nationally recognized programs in Colerain (Cincinnati) and Skyline (Dallas) before returning home, only to lose to defending Florida Class 6A champion Miami Central.

The defeats were not pretty (by a combined score of 73-27), but perhaps the rough early-season slate has set up Cocoa for a much bigger prize at the end.

Despite the losses, head coach John Wilkinson was more than willing to sing the praises of Folston – who has worn a variety of hats across the board for the Tigers through four games. In addition to starting at running back, Folston sees plenty of time at safety for Cocoa – and is even the team’s starting punter as well.

“He does it all for us,” Wilkinson said of Folston. “He’s done a phenomenal job working behind a new offensive line (which is starting three sophomores and two juniors). He’s playing both sides of the ball. He had two interceptions against Skyline in addition to almost 100 yards receiving on offense.”

That versatility hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Folston has already picked up a few early verbal offers from BCS-caliber programs. Wilkinson noted that Boston College, Cincinnati and Louisville have all extended scholarship opportunities, in addition to Florida.

Folston had already camped at Friday Night Lights in Gainesville for the past two summers and was among the top performers at running back each time, but he recently got to experience the Swamp in a different light.

He attended his first college game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium just over a week ago when he sat in the South End Zone stands for Florida’s 33-23 win over Tennessee.

The trip was a good one for Folston, according to his coach.

“It was an eye-opening experience, to see all of those people,” Wilkinson said of Folston’s time at UF. “After the game he spoke to Aubrey [Hill], [Bryant] Young, [Brian] White and coach Muschamp for a long time. They mostly talked a lot about how they used Chris Rainey and how good he is.”

Attending a game where Rainey both rushed for 100 yards, and went over for 100 yards receiving, UF may eventually have an heir to the throne as a rushing and receiving threat in Folston if they continue to push for him as hard as they have to date.

“The coaches want him to be a Gator,” Wilkinson added. “They let him know that.”

Folston also rushed for over 1,200 yards and hit paydirt for 13 touchdowns a year ago as a sophomore in leading Cocoa to a 14-0 record and the FHSAA Class 2A state championship.