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'Canes in playoffs? Not that far-fetched

Wins against the right teams is the key, coach Mike June points out.

By JOHN SCHWARB, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002


PALM HARBOR -- Say what you will about the 2001 Palm Harbor U. team, but it was one win from the playoffs.

Huh? The team that finished 1-9? With 53 points all year and an average of 103 yards of offense per game? Yep, that one. In four-team Class 5A, District 7, PHU was in the driver's seat after a 21-19 win over Clearwater. With a win against then- 0-6 Pinellas Park, PHU would have earned its first playoff berth.

Only the Hurricanes lost that one, lost two weeks later to East Lake and missed the postseason. But they found out success can be that close.

"I know there are only two games I have to win and I'm in the playoffs," coach Mike June said.

With a schedule that includes five playoff teams among its non-district games, PHU is not a good bet to finish over .500. But the Hurricanes don't have to, and June already is convinced he has more to work with anyway.

"Athletically, overall, we believe this is the most talented team that we've had here, and we're a team," June said. "You've got to go with the New England Patriots theme right now, that showed it all."

THROUGH THE AIR: To spruce up camp, nothing works like a quarterback competition. PHU has two juniors, Scott Cahoon and Mike Kampel.

Cahoon is more athletic and Kampel more of a pure pocket passer, but June wants to make the game simpler and that will mean fewer passes. June said the player who turns the ball over the least in preseason will emerge as the favorite.

ON THE GROUND: James Brown, you were missed. One year after the two-time 1,000-yard rusher graduated, PHU's entire team ran for 632 yards. The only team anywhere near that inept was Gibbs, which ran for 855 from its pass-happy spread offense.

To rectify the situation, senior Nick Schoeman (5 feet 10, 165 pounds) and junior Stanford Gulley (6-0, 180) will get plenty of carries. They should find some holes, as juniors Dain Hagen (275 pounds) and Matt Huners (250) anchor a nice-size line.

DEFENSE: After giving up 38.2 points per game last year, an overhaul was in order. PHU's new set will be a "50," featuring five down linemen.

"You have to take away something, so we're going to try to take away the run as our first thought, hopefully force people into a passing game," June said.

The coach likes the look so far across the line, starting with nose guard Brandon Herring. Gulley will man one end spot and Dirrell Ross, a junior transfer from Clearwater, will take the other.

There is not a standout on the unit, but that might not be a bad thing. A year ago, star defender Mike Lube sustained a season-ending knee injury early on, and the team never really recovered. JUST FOR KICKS: For the first time, the Hurricanes go into the season not exactly sure who will kick. June is looking at a few PHU soccer players, which isn't a bad thing given the quality of those teams.

Schoeman will likely punt.

PALM HARBOR UNIVERSITY

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