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Tigers have playoff potential if they unite

Despite losing 16 starters, there is talent to fill the holes.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002


DUNNELLON -- Besides having a fair amount of talent, the 2001 Dunnellon team was blessed with chemistry and experience.

You get that when you have 23 seniors.

"That team just played well together," Tigers coach Perry Brown said.

This year's squad might be as athletically gifted, but the great uncertainty is whether it can overcome its inexperience and find harmony on the field -- and do so in time to make the playoffs for the second straight season.

"For us to really have success this season and to have a chance at a playoff berth, we have to come together quickly," Brown said. "These kids have some athletic ability and we have some pretty good skill people, but we're going to have to be able to put it together."

Sixteen starters from last year graduated, including quarterback Alex Harvey, who set school passing records for yards and touchdowns. Also gone from Dunnellon's high-powered offense are receivers Chris Anderson and Daniel Ramp -- two of Harvey's top targets -- and several starting linemen.

This year's offense will be built around a formidable backfield led by senior fullback Jay Dow (74 carries, 548 yards), who combines strength and speed as one of the area's top players.

He is joined by Marty Allen, Kristen Bullock, Josh Peacock, Dennis Peacock and ninth-grader Rodney Jones, all big-play threats.

"It's a good group of kids," Brown said.

At quarterback, the Tigers will go either with sophomore Codi Hendrix or junior Drew Spitznogle. Hendrix, thanks to his 6-foot-5 height, sees the field well. He started for the junior varsity last fall. Spitznogle is an accurate passer.

"I feel comfortable with either one," Brown said. "They've both progressed well to this point. The only thing is that they haven't been tested. That's a big key. We'll have to see how they do in an actual game."

Up front, one starter returns, senior Kent Jensen.

On defense, Eric Cox, a safety/linebacker (he's also a projected starter at wide receiver), linebacker Chaz Holt and tackle Frank York are the only returning starters and each is a good one. Cox is an athletic presensce, Holt is one the squad's hardest workers, and York is versatile enough to play up front or linebacker.

Senior Juan Ledesma, a first-year player, will handle punts, kickoffs and extra points.

Besides inexperience, Dunnellon's lack of depth is Brown's other major concern.

"We're just not as deep as last year," he said.

Still, Brown expects the Tigers to compete for a playoff spot.

"The potential is there," he said.

DUNNELLON TIGERS

Directions

TIGERS STADIUM: On campus, 10055 SW 180th Ave. Road. Follow U.S. 41 north over the river. Turn right on C.R. 484, the first light after the river. Turn left on SW 180th Ave. Road. Stadium is 1 mile on the right.

TIGERS PLAYBOOK

OFFENSE: Dunnellon's base set is the Wing-T (or Fling-T as coach Perry Brown calls it), but the Tigers, who averaged 30 points in 2001, have 40 different formations. This is a wide-open offense that likes to spread the field and make the opposition work each and every down. The Tigers never rely on one player. The main objective is to utilize all of the backs, each of whom has big-play potential. Dunnellon passed for about 1,800 yards last season, but might concentrate more on the run in 2002 since both candidates vying to become the starting QB are inexperienced. With a stable of capable backs, this offense should click provided it gets solid production up front.

DEFENSE: Dunnellon's 4-4 base defense is designed to stop the run. The Tigers like their linemen to fill the gaps, which then allows the linebackers to make plays. Dunnellon often places its outside linebackers near the line of scrimmage to force the issue. The inside 'backers play behind the tackles and the corners play at about the same depth. Tackle Frank York leads an interior that is athletic but lacks the size it had last fall. Eric Cox and Chaz Holt are the top returning linebackers. Cox, who has good size and speed, also plays safety and wide receiver.

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