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Last season's stars are tough to replace

The biggest holes are on the offensive and defensive lines, the heart of the team.

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

TAMPA -- They are four words that can cause a football coach -- any coach -- to shudder just thinking about them.

[Times photo: Thomas M. Goethe]
Chamberlain’s John Thomas catches his breath after tackling drills at practice. Thomas is the lone returner from last year’s impressive offensive line.
Now imagine a coach trying to provide an encore to the most successful season in school history and his 31-year career having to utter those words. It almost hurts.

We've ... got ... some ... holes.

That's how Chamberlain coach Billy Turner described his Chiefs as they return to the field one season after going on a 12-game winning streak that included their first playoff win and ended with a loss to Naples in the state championship game.

"We lost probably eight to 10 outstanding players," Turner said. "You can't replace (Times All-County Co-Players of the Year) Brodrick Bunkley or an Ollie Hoyte. Those two especially. In my opinion they were All-Americans."

Success builds expectations and expectations cause pressure. Those expectations led to what Turner called the most hectic offseason of his career.

That pressure bore itself out in extra long hours in the weight room and football office as he decided how he was going to rebuild offensive and defensive lines that proved to be the heart of his team.

"I spent more time up here than I ever have before," Turner said from behind his desk. "It's all about expectations."

THROUGH THE AIR: Quarterback Sidney Bryant proved he could carry part of a team last year when he passed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore. This year, he has to prove he can carry more of the load.

Turner will entrust Bryant, who has been raised as a quarterback and works frequently with former NFL great Freddie Solomon, to run the offense and throw more than he did last season when he attempted 113 passes.

His main target will be Greg Lee, who played defensive back and has started since his freshman year. James Moore, a 6-foot-2 junior who played junior varsity last year, will be the other target.

ON THE GROUND: Eddie Lee Ivery graduated and is at Georgia Tech and Donovan Davis is no longer at Chamberlain. That means the three-headed backfield the Chiefs used to wear opponents down late in games will become Michael Ross.

Ross spent most of last season as a cornerback but would spell Davis and Ivery in the fourth quarter with fresh legs and new moves, a ploy Turner used masterfully to score late. This year, it's all Ross all the time. His biggest problem will be running behind what amounts to a new line, save John Thomas, the lone returner.

DEFENSE: Well-publicized is the loss of Bunkley and Hoyte and Mike Torres and, well, the list goes on and on as the Chiefs return three starters. Not as well known is Joe Clermond, perhaps one of the best defenders in the county, and hard-hitting Trey Seaholm and Sean Dixon. They will be counted on to hold together Chamberlain's No. 2-ranked defense in the county.

THE BIG GAME: Hillsborough, Nov. 1. They don't get any bigger than Chamberlain-Hillsborough and this year it could be for all the Class 5A, District 6 marbles.

Chamberlain defeated Hillsborough twice last year, once in the regular season and again in the playoffs. The total margin of victory was 10 points, including the 26-23 win in the first meeting, which lasted four overtimes.


Introducing OL John Thomas
photoBirthday: Sept. 15, 1984
Birth weight: 8 pounds, 8 ounces
Birthplace: Women’s Hospital, Tampa
Current weight: 235 pounds
Current height: 6 feet 1
On the water: John’s father, also named John, is a boat captain by trade. He has fished, or taken people fishing, in just about every body of water along the eastern seaboard. So it’s no surprise that John Jr. has been fishing with his dad ever since he was a toddler. One of the prized catches for John Jr. is a 400-pound Goliath grouper he caught this summer in the Florida Keys.
Don’t rock the boat: John Jr. has never used seasickness pills, and yet he has never been remotely seasick. This is in direct opposition to his mother, Tina, who said she got seasick “almost every single time out on the water.”

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