BAKER — Kalee Ciurleo was thrilled when his twin brother Jalen was named a Dandy Dozen honoree last season. Who wouldn’t want one of the area’s best players lining up behind them as their running back and playing opposite them in the secondary?
“If it wasn’t going to be me, then I hoped it was him,” Kalee said. “(But) it made me push harder so I could have my name on there too.”
Well, after a season in which he completed 65 of 109 passes for 1,137 yards and 17 touchdowns, ran for 468 yards and seven touchdowns and led the Gators to a state title game appearance, Kalee Ciurleo has earned the honor himself.
Both brothers have.
For Kalee, the quarterback and outside linebacker is poised for another standout season.
“Kalee’s got a year of experience under his belt as our signal caller,” Baker head coach Matt Brunson said. “He led us to the state championship game and he’s gotten bigger, faster and stronger. He’s throwing the ball great. And he’s got good speed and athleticism.
“He has a very bright future ahead of him. I think with a year experience and playing 14 games last year he’ll be very good this year.”
Kalee has earned the trust of Brunson to throw the ball a bit more this season. Though the Gators have never been afraid to throw out of their triple-option offense, both the coach and quarterback said the team won't be afraid to air it out."
“And better than we did last year,” Brunson added. “When we run the option, Kalee has pre-snap reads where he can check to a play that’s favorable. He also has post-snap options. If teams give us something that’s favorable, we throw it. It’s all built into the system.”
Because of it, Ciurleo spent the offseason working on his footwork, reading his options and working on a quicker release.
But make no mistake about it. The Gators’ rushing attack — featuring brother Jalen, Junior McLaughlin and Jayson Moore — will be the team’s bread and butter.
The rushing attack will be what gets the team back to the state playoffs.
“We’ve been working hard to get back to where we left off,” Kalee said. “I love competition. The more the better.
“If we get back to state, we’ll be ready.”
Who’s the best player on your team beside yourself?
Jalen and Junior.
Who’s the most underrated player on your team ready to break out?
I’d say (linebacker) Zack Brown and Jayson Moore.
What’s this team’s ceiling?
Improving every game. Having a 14-0 season but actually winning the 14th one.
What’s this team’s basement?
To not play at our fullest and not give it our all.
Are you a trash talker?
Nah, I’m pretty humble. Unless somebody tries to get in my face. (If someone sacks me) I’d probably give them a little tap and say, ‘Nice tackle.’ But if they say something then, yeah, I’d probably break.
Who is your team's biggest rival?
I would say Blountstown, because they don’t like what we did to them last year.
Rainy day, what are you binge watching?
I watch Game of Thrones. Someone told me I should start watching it and I have. It’s pretty good. Pretty gory.
What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?
Probably my mama’s enchiladas.
What’s the most exciting play in football?
I like throwing the long ball — having my receivers go up for it and give them a chance.
Compare your game to a current star in college or the NFL.
Lamar Jackson from Louisville.
You win the lottery. What’s the first thing you do?
I’d probably give my mom and dad each a million dollars. They’ve each done so much to take care of me.
What’s the best thing about being a Baker Gator?
It’s just family. We all have fun. We all talk. We all love each other and push each other to get better.