Their new coach has put in a more balanced attack for one thing.
By FRANK PASTOR
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
BROOKSVILLE -- Quarterback Joe Brazeau broke his right hand in the second quarter of Central's spring game. Since it was his non-throwing hand, he was able to play the second half.
A year ago, Brazeau could have broken either hand and still finished the game. He threw just one pass as a backup to Chase Evans, who attempted 18.
A more balanced offense is one of many changes for the Bears since John Wilkinson replaced coach Steve Crognale.
Wilkinson was an assistant at Merritt Island and the University of Massachusetts and spent last season as offensive coordinator at New Smyrna Beach, which clobbered Central 40-6 in the playoffs.
"It kind of struck me as weird after he destroyed us that he'd want to come coach us," defensive end Chris Ortiz said.
Crognale's teams relied on an experienced offensive line to open holes for running back Tim Gaynor, whose 1,769 yards and 19 touchdowns led the county last season. The combination clicked, as the Bears went 7-3 and made the Class 4A playoffs.
"Coach Crog and those guys were successful with what they did, so that's what they did," Wilkinson said. "That's the name of the game."
Central will continue to lean on Gaynor, but Brazeau's decision-making and the progress of a new line also will figure into the Bears' new multiple offense.
With Willie Winslett (Eastern Kentucky), T.J. Hedick (Lenoir-Rhyne), Billy Wood, Andrew Bourguignon and Doug Crowley lost to graduation, Central had to rebuild its line from scratch.
In tackles Nick Marty and Brian Oakes, guards Mike Gurske and Mike Nelson, centers Steve Favia and Jason Santiago and tight end Mike Noyes, the Bears think they have a combination of size and quickness.
Though they might not be as talented as their predecessors, they should be fresher under Wilkinson's two-platoon system.
There are changes on defense, too, as coordinator Lance Jenkins' unit will employ several fronts out of its base 4-4.
One thing that hasn't changed is the emphasis on teamwork. Wilkinson removed the names from the jerseys and suspended Gaynor from the spring game for violating team rules.
"Right then, we all knew he wasn't messing around," Brazeau said. "He wasn't there to play games. He was there to win."
Wilkinson said Gaynor met all of his obligations over the summer and is back in good standing.
"We have a clean slate with Timmy now," Wilkinson said. "We're all set. He's changed a lot over the summer."
So has Central.
OFFENSE: Central will run many packages out of its new multiple offense. Ideally, first-year coach John Wilkinson would like to see a 60-40 run-pass ratio from his previously ground-oriented team. But he is happy to stick with the running game as long as opponents are unable to stop tailback Tim Gaynor, who amassed nearly 1,800 yards last season. Mostly, though, Wilkinson would like to see his offense dictate alignments to opposing defenses. The unit will continue to revolve around Gaynor, but quarterback Joe Brazeau's decision-making and the work of an offensive line featuring five new starters will be equally important to the Bears' success.
DEFENSE: Where former coach Steve Crognale preferred an attacking defense, defensive coordinator Lance Jenkins' unit will rely more heavily on technique in its 4-4 base set. Last year, linemen were encouraged to shoot their gaps and get upfield. This year, they will be asked to read the offensive linemen and take their keys from them. Part of their responsibility will be to tie up the linemen, freeing the linebackers to make plays. Another difference is the two-platoon system Central will employ on both sides of the ball, intended to keep players fresher longer.
AT A GLANCE
COLORS: Blue and silver.
CLASS: Class 4A, District 6.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001.
LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to New Smyrna Beach 40-6.
HEAD COACH: John Wilkinson, first year.
ASSISTANTS: Lawrence Samuels, Lance Jenkins, Mike Ellison, Joe Nestor, Peter Irby, Justin Howell, Brian Bridges.
BEARS DEN: West of Brooksville. From State Road 50 east of U.S. 19 and west of Brooksville, turn north on Sunshine Grove Road. School complex will be on the right, about 1 mile.