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Veteran leadership strength of Cougars

Durant plans to run the ball behind its large linemen until it's stopped.

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

DURANT -- Durant surprised a few people last year by going 6-4. Imagine what the Cougars are going to do to people this year.

The Cougars return a veteran quarterback, starters on both sides of the line and a running back who can make things happen with his speed. Now there's just the matter of that nasty district schedule.

All four Cougar losses last year came against district competition. Of course, when Lakeland and Riverview and Haines City are stopping by your stadium, it's never going to be an easy road.

Then there's that other district game against rival Plant City. The one that every Raider and Cougar looks forward to.

"Our district is filled with tough, big games," Durant coach David New said. "But I'd have to say, Plant City is our big game. It won't change a bad season, but it is important to our kids. Their kids and ours live in the same neighborhoods and bragging rights go with this one."

THROUGH THE AIR: Senior quarterback Jared Walker is back for another season. Walker has earned New's confidence and has the respect of his receivers.

Walker spent much of the offseason lifting weights, improving his strength and throwing accuracy. He is 6 feet 1, 180 pounds, and could be a Division I quarterback next season, according to New.

Junior split end Marshall McDuffie (6-3, 180) is Walker's primary target. Chris Thompson, a 6-3, 225-pound junior tight end, along with running backs Trae Williams and Sean Zentmeyer, will be available for the aerial attack.

ON THE GROUND: The Cougars operate from the wing-T formation, which is primarily a ground attack with options. Waylon Slabach, a 6-0, 230-pound senior veteran, is the center and leader of the offensive line. Ryan Daniels and Bo Hanna, both close to 240, are the guards and 6-3, 250-pound Marc Delgado and 6-0, 245-pound Steven Hadsall are the tackles.

"This offensive line is big, fast and experienced," New said. "They can pull and hit people in space and can move defenders out of the way."

New describes Zentmeyer as a straight ahead, no-nonsense fullback, hard to take down with just one tackler. Williams, the halfback, runs the 100-yard dash in 11 seconds and the 40 in 4.4. In addition to being an elusive runner and one of the fastest in the county, he returns punts, catches passes and helps on defense.

"We will run the ball until somebody stops us, then we will pass," New said.

DEFENSE: New describes his defense as undersized, aggressive and experienced.

"Most teams in high schools run first, so we are set up to primarily stop the run," he said.

Kerry Guy, a 6-1, 185-pound senior strong safety, is the playmaker. Fred Andrew, Williams and McDuffie support him in the secondary.

Will Salley, Derek Beaty, Eric Zimmerman and James Hobley are returning starters at linebacker. "The linebackers and secondary are the strength of our defense," New said. "They are not huge, but they are aggressive and they get to the ball quickly."

The linemen include Dan Martin, Eric Talbert and Landon West, all veterans.

THE BIG GAME: Plant City, Oct. 4. This is the battle for bragging rights and the Cougars have something to say about Plant City's 29-0 win last year. It was the only time Durant was shut out.


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