The roster is at 27, but attendance was up at conditioning drills.
By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
ZEPHYRHILLS -- The first time James Adamo felt real confidence in his team was the summer before his junior year, when he moved to Florida from New York and saw the turnout in the Bulldogs' conditioning program.
That turned into an 8-3 record last fall, and this summer, the senior quarterback was even more impressed by his teammates' offseason commitment.
"I thought there were a lot here last year, but this summer, I'd say it doubled," said Adamo, a left-handed, 6-foot-3 college prospect who threw for eight touchdowns and ran for nine more last season. "We've got a lot we have to do, but we've got a lot of high expectations."
Where the turnout is frustrating is on the playing field; the Bulldogs will start the season with 27 players. What depth there is is often borrowed from other positions.
"You get used to it," coach Tom Fisher said. "We usually start around 30, then lose a few to injury or one reason or another. If I had 10 more guys, they might be guys that wouldn't really contribute. There's no sense having them around, unless they can give you a look on offense or defense."
Getting a look at tailback is junior Sidney Williams, up from the junior varsity, and senior Tony Smiley, who caught two touchdowns as a receiver last year. The team has height at receiver (and, by necessity, in the defensive secondary) in junior Keith Osterman, seniors Kyle Briscoe and John McKnight and freshman Bryan Thomas.
The offensive line returns nearly intact: center Shane Hand, guards Daniel Cerf and Scott Calhoun and tackles Derek Wallace and Bubba Tindale. In the mix are senior Jamen Monbarren, out since October with a broken ankle, and Daniel Haynie, a transfer from North Carolina.
Hand, a state wrestling champion, keys the defensive line, with fellow wrestling star, Doug Burden, shifting to linebacker after recording eight sacks last year.
One potential distraction the Bulldogs must overcome is the legal trouble of former linebacker A.J. Devonshire, facing a charge of second-degree murder in connection with the May shooting of a 33-year-old Zephyrhills man.
Devonshire wasn't with the Bulldogs at the end of last season, however, and two seniors who might be missed more are two-way standouts Justin Whitworth and Michael Moody.
The schedule is kind to Zephyrhills. A Sept. 13 trip to Land O'Lakes is the only road game vs. a team with a winning record. The Bulldogs' key game is Nov. 1, when Pasco brings the 9-Mile Rivalry to Bulldog Stadium.
OFFENSE: Zephyrhills lines up in a pro formation with one tight end and two receivers. Two running backs are either set in an "I" formation or split. When both receivers -- a split end and flanker -- are together on one side opposite the tight end, assistant coach Chris Bounnell calls the shift "Liz" (on left side) or "Rip" (on the right). Quarterback James Adamo is left-handed, so the blindside-protecting tackle is on the right side instead of the left as usual.
The Bulldogs win by running the ball, especially close to the goal line. Zephyrhills had 26 rushing touchdowns last year versus nine through the air. Don't rule out any kind of trickery, either -- a halfback option worked for a 44-yard score last year.
DEFENSE: The Bulldogs work out of a 4-4 or "44" alignment, attacking with four down linemen and four linebackers using an assortment of stunts and blitzes. Against pass-heavy offenses -- which are getting easier to find in Pasco County -- they can shift to a 4-3 to add an extra defensive back.
More county teams are lining up in "50" defenses that stack the line with five down linemen, and coach Tom Fisher has used a 5-3 alignment at times, using the extra pass rusher to pressure the quarterback or bunch up against inside running teams.
AT A GLANCE
COLORS: Black and orange.
CLASS: Class 3A, District 7.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1989, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2001.
LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Jesuit 34-14.
HEAD COACH: Tom Fisher (79-53 in 14th season at school).
ASSISTANTS: Chris Bounnell, Jeff Bush, Mark Hardy, Troy Hochstetler, Brian Matthews, Matt McDermott.