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Rebels pinning hopes on healthy veterans

Coach Mike Morey says the team must avoid a rash of injuries.

By BOB PUTNAM, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002


ST. PETERSBURG -- Dixie Hollins was supposed to be a team to be reckoned with. With an abundance of young talent at the skill positions and an experienced line last season, the Rebels were vying for their first playoff appearance since 1996.

Then they were stung by the injury bug.

Three offensive linemen went down with injuries in the first two weeks and the team's top rusher, Art Williams, had a season-ending knee injury in Week 7. Dixie Hollins somehow cobbled together a 4-3 record and was undefeated in Class 4A, District 9 entering the stretch run. But the momentum shifted with all the injuries, especially Williams', and the Rebels limped home with three consecutive losses to end the season.

So with the return of the starting quarterback, fullback, receiver and top lineman, can Dixie Hollins get to the postseason this year?

The bigger question is: Can their best players stay healthy?

"We have to stay free of injuries," Rebels coach Mike Morey said. "It doesn't matter whether it's high school, college or the pros, you've got to stay healthy to win."

THROUGH THE AIR: B.J. Hall is back at quarterback and will try to get the ball to Kevin Marion whenever possible. Marion, who broke the state record in the long jump last season, is the X factor on offense.

Morey said he wants to get the ball in Marion's hands in different ways and will use him as a receiver, a running back, sometimes even under center. If Marion does take some snaps, Hall can be used as a receiver.

ON THE GROUND: Morey had hoped to have Williams back. The knee has been rehabilitated, but Williams will miss the season anyway because he's academically ineligible. For now, Minio Torres will take his place at tailback, but Morey said he hopes someone emerges from a logjam at fullback where starter George Lovett will share time with Sean Klinesmith and Dan Puckett.

After learning on the job last season, the offensive line is experienced. Curtis Chance is one of the top linemen in the county and received rave reviews for his performance at a University of South Florida camp this summer. He is joined by Kyle Breeden, Rob Hartline and Ishaq Swift.

Morey said he still is auditioning players for one of the guard spots.

DEFENSE: Dan Stickney and Chance are immovable objects up front. Behind them are linebackers Josh Pattenaude, Lovett and Klinesmith. Hall and Marion are the last line of defense in the secondary.

JUST FOR KICKS: Vince Iacopelli was 23-of-24 on extra points and nearly as automatic on field goals. Marion most likely will punt.

DIXIE HOLLINS

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