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Healthy Marauders pose playoff threat

New coach Mike Jalazo says his team could be ''something special.''

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002


CLEARWATER -- Clearwater Central Catholic extended its county-best streak with a sixth consecutive playoff appearance last year.

What a nightmare.

Most teams fight an injury bug at some point during a season, but CCC racked up so many last season that coach John Davis could at times run his finger down the roster and barely come up with enough healthy bodies to fill an offense and defense.

Davis is out and former Admiral Farragut coach Mike Jalazo is in, but the new leader knows about the extent of last year's woes. His star wideout/defensive back, LeRue Rumph, came to spring practice with a rod in his leg, the aftermath of a broken leg sustained early in the 2001 season.

Jalazo knows there is no magic formula to avoid injuries, though he said a schedule without Class 4A powerhouses Jefferson and Lakeland Lake Gibson would help. But that's not the case this year, as the same tough schedule that CCC gamely fought to a 5-5 stalemate is on tap.

"If we stay healthy with the schedule we have, we could be very, very good," Jalazo said. "So if we're healthy after Week 10, then we have a chance to do something special in the playoffs."

THROUGH THE AIR: Jalazo knew he would have a returning quarterback when he accepted the job, but Orlando Rivas impressed him even more in person. If the senior was not 5 feet 8, Jalazo said there would be as many college coaches asking about him as Rumph.

Rivas has a deep receiving corps that includes juniors Chip Brinkman, John Cosmello, Blaine Wheeley and Matt Wirth.

ON THE GROUND: Last year's leading rusher, Mike Scanlon, is gone, but Jimmy Fricker (71 carries, 360 yards, 3 touchdowns) returns and will get more work. Rumph may also line up in the backfield at times, though there might be some deception in play with all the various ways he'll line up.

The offensive line has size and speed. Sophomore A.J. Trump (6-4, 275) is a fixture, and junior Tyler DeJarnatt (6-0, 230) is making an impact.

DEFENSE: CCC has the luxury of not needing many of its big guys to go both ways. The defensive line can be just that, allowing Kenny Ackerman (6-3, 225) and John Petika (6-1, 195) to stay fresh. The linebacking corps is seasoned, with Nick Capogna, Matt Lockey and Fricker. Jalazo warns that opponents might not want to get too focused on watching Rumph at free safety, because Bobby Floyd will demand attention at strong safety.

JUST FOR KICKS: Joey Ijjas is arguably the dean of all county kickers now that Countryside's Jon Peattie and Largo's Brandon Mai have graduated. He'll kick, punt and get attention from colleges with his size (6-3, 200).

CLEARWATER CENTRAL CATHOLIC

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