St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

Playoff losses big motivation for Gators

Benedetto thinks he has the QB and other talents to go farther.

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

LAND O'LAKES -- A failed two-point conversion with no time left in last year's 7-6 playoff loss to Ocala Forest stunned the Gators.

Coach John Benedetto wants that Class 4A quarterfinal defeat to be a lasting memory for a team with five consecutive postseason appearances but no wins.

"It was very emotional," said Benedetto, the county's senior coach entering his 26th season. "Hopefully, we learned something from it. You can take a bad situation and turn it into a good one, I think, by getting your concentration up a little higher."

Improving on a 1-10 playoff mark is paramount and Benedetto feels there is ample talent to do just that.

First and foremost is quarterback Drew Weatherford, a junior who led the county in completions (111), passing yards (1,475, a school record) and touchdown passes (12) last season. After starting every game since his freshman season, look for Weatherford to increase those numbers.

"I don't know how the season is going to go, but we've got one damn good quarterback," said Benedetto.

The Gators' most productive receiver, Chip Whalen (492 yards, four TDs), graduated, leaving Logan Payne (306 receiving yards, five TDs) as Weatherford's top target. Deep threat Michael Garcia and tight end Dustin Collins are sure to see more balls.

Running backs Chris Perez, Giovanni Benedetto (the coach's son), Tom Hoskins, Adam Denicourt and Keith Elser also will be catching some passes.

All of which should make Land O'Lakes, traditionally a run-oriented team, the most balanced in school history. So why isn't the coach as ecstatic about his offense as he is his quarterback?

"Here's the problem," Benedetto said. "You've got a Division I quarterback, but other than Logan, who is an above-average receiver, Drew's throwing to average receivers.

"Is that going to work?"

Probably, especially if Perez turns out to be the latest in a long line of outstanding running backs. The junior should give Land O'Lakes its first 1,000-yard rusher since Godfrey Pestana (a 2000 graduate who rushed for a school-record 4,057 yards).

Like Pestana, Perez rushed for 1,000 yards at Pine View Middle School and for the junior varsity. Last season, Perez ran for 363 yards, had another 103 receiving and scored five touchdowns.

"It's so hard to get a good hit on him and he's got deceptive speed," Benedetto said.

Defensively, all-county cornerback Payne (five interceptions) returns along with lineman Joey Tuttle and linebacker Denicourt.



GATORS STADIUM: 20325 Gator Lane, Land O'Lakes. From the west, take S.R. 52 to U.S. 41 and turn south. School is 5 miles on the left. From the east, take S.R. 52 to U.S. 41 and turn south.


OFFENSE: Land O'Lakes' run-oriented offense can be boring -- and especially proficient as evidenced in the past five consecutive playoff seasons -- with a slew of dives and traps. Not anymore, thanks to strong-armed quarterback Drew Weatherford, a junior entering his third year as the starter. Plays such as 90 Special Post will be used more often than in the past. On that call, Logan Payne flying down the left sideline is the primary target, with split end Giovanni Benedetto and tight end Dustin Collins as the outlets. This happens behind one of the county's most experienced lines anchored by Joey Tuttle and Bobby O'Dell.

DEFENSE: In the Gators' traditional 4-4 scheme, Tuttle and O'Dell anchor a defensive line primarily responsible for keeping offensive linemen off the linebackers. They help funnel plays for inside linebackers Adam Denicourt and Kevan Bogaert. Outside linebackers Tom Hoskins and Collins force plays back to the inside. Defensive backs Giovanni Benedetto, Chris Perez, Michael Garcia and Payne are interchangeable as safeties and at the corners. This unit is disciplined enough to play the pass first and come up quickly for run support.

Back to Sports

Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright

From the Times sports desk

U.S. Open Tennis
  • Sampras whips the kid
  • First Hewitt-Agassi match was a stunner
  • Davenport and Mauresmo up against Williams wall

  • On the Net
  • Tennis sites top NFL in searches

  • Colleges
  • 'Canes' DBs face big test
  • State practice reports
  • Silence isn't golden for DTs
  • Loss leads to better days
  • Beavers cruise to victory
  • Around the Nation

  • Baseball
  • AL: A-Rod reaches 50 HRs in rout
  • NL: Four-run first helps Schilling get 22nd win
  • Baseball notebook
  • Streak is nice, but A's want division

  • Motorsports
  • Stewart nips Harvick for rare Truck victory

  • NFL
  • 49ers win season opener
  • Around the NFC
  • Around the AFC

  • Sports on TV, Radio
  • Fox trio of announcers paving way to top spot

  • Preps
  • Mitchell promotes JV coach
  • Bears open with victory
  • New Chiefs, same dreams
  • Why run when they can fly?

  • Etc.
  • In brief
  • UT ready to honor its best

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report

  • NFL Football preview 2002
  • Light up the cannons and hold your ears
  • Gimme Five
  • Gruden's path littered with historic hurdles
  • League site gives fans what they want
  • Bucs by the numbers
  • Kiffin's in charge of the defense, as always
  • Bucs Q&A
  • What to bring and what to leave home
  • Dilger site knocked off-line by Sept. 11
  • NFL Q&A
  • New rules
  • NFC South capsules
  • Confidence still strong despite loss of talent
  • Saints notebook
  • Bucs coaches
  • Falcons Notebook
  • So fast, they're scary
  • Buccaneers defensive capsules
  • Buccaneers offensive capsules
  • The Florida Keys
  • 'I am making a guarantee'
  • Staff predictions
  • Buccaneers at a glance
  • Bucs: High Hopes
  • Coaching changes
  • On the road with the Bucs
  • Team by team breakdown
  • Dolphins: For the fans
  • No more excuses for Miami
  • New NFL stadiums
  • Jacksonville looking dim without its stars
  • Jaguars: For the fans
  • NFL: By the numbers
  • What they're saying about the Bucs
  • What they're saying about the Dolphins
  • What they're saying about the Dolphins
  • What's past is past for Panthers, unless you hang on for motivation
  • Panthers: Special teams must keep scoring points

  • Prep football preview 2002
  • 4A-6 DISTRICT PREVIEW: Defending champ faces tough road
  • Losing season doesn't sit well with Hawks
  • Team's continued rise depends on cohesion
  • Graduation forces Spongers to ''reload''
  • Barons look forward to tough schedule
  • New-look Warhawks boast lofty goals
  • New Pats coach plans plenty of changes
  • Devils welcome fresh cast of characters
  • 'Canes in playoffs? Not that far-fetched
  • Explosive Felton to carry Warriors' load
  • Small Mustangs must rely on experience
  • Harris looks to measure up in win column
  • Packers boast new weapon at quarterback
  • Loaded Spartans have talent to dominate
  • Crusaders hope to make success a habit
  • Numbers to give Eagles breathing room
  • Gladiators trying to stay more grounded
  • Eagles likely to finally get off the ground
  • Seniors have Falcons thinking playoffs
  • Rebels pinning hopes on healthy veterans
  • Cougars must surmount rugged district
  • Healthy Marauders pose playoff threat
  • Nucleus has Tornadoes primed to rebound
  • Pirates hope confidence is the difference
  • New coach looking to stretch the field
  • Big dreams without big heads
  • You've come a long way baby!
  • The small things come first for county's newest teams
  • Hillsborough distric outlook
  • From the editor:
  • Team's character, offense are focus
  • West Preview: Could this be the season the west finally fights back?
  • Veteran leadership strength of Cougars
  • This Cowboys coach promises to stay put
  • Don't be surprised by Indians this time
  • It's now or never for the Dragons
  • Potential for title run has Lions' attention
  • One loss motivates Tigers to improve
  • Leto's new offense, season hold promise
  • Reaves ready to put Panthers in spotlight
  • Rebuilding Raiders must grow up fast
  • It's Hicks' turn to carry load for Knights
  • New-look Titans plan to pass first
  • Too many veterans not to be optimistic
  • Crusaders continue rebuilding project
  • Wildcats begin to whisper about playoffs
  • Last season's woes strengthen Eagles
  • Ravens' growth will determine success
  • Last season's stars are tough to replace
  • Bucs want early wins then trip to playoffs
  • Nine-game skid shakes team's foundation
  • Bulls out to end trend of one-win seasons
  • Depth in trenches crucial for Eagles
  • Pasco County: For the fans
  • Playoff losses big motivation for Gators
  • The word little's a big deal for Mustangs
  • If Pirates can remain healthy, watch out
  • This season's schedule bound to have more surprises
  • New coach, offense give Rams new hope
  • Juniors out to resurrect Knights' success
  • Wildcats prepare for tougher challenges
  • Bulldogs are lacking in numbers, as usual
  • 10 Games to Watch: A week-by-week county primer
  • 10 Questions: Setting the record straight for 2002 ... sort of
  • Gators begin making big waves
  • National Signing Day will be a big deal this time around
  • Bucs sport a new look called the Spread-I
  • Conference race has new meaning
  • Offense has promise, defense a concern
  • Weightman to test reloading Hudson
  • New Bears coach is all about approach
  • Hernando: For the Fans
  • On the Net
  • Castillo, Leopards ready to break into open
  • Eagles to take field with winning feeling
  • Hernando County's college players to watch
  • Eagles in for rocky start, strong finish
  • Springstead ready to push Central
  • Scheme stays same but faces change
  • Panthers standout isn't very hard to find on field
  • Pirates bent on dismissing doubters, foes
  • Panthers have tasted success, want more
  • Buoyed by experience, athleticism
  • Tigers have playoff potential if they unite
  • A whole new offensive ballgame
  • Citrus County football from A to Z

  • Rays
  • Rays, Kennedy get swept away
  • Naimoli says deal should help sport
  • Nash to get out of jail
  • Up next: Rangers

  • Bucs
  • Productive Saints QB still looking for respect
  • Lightning forces players into garage

  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts