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Leto's new offense, season hold promise

QB Joey Bailey plans to put the ball in the air in an effort to keep pace in the standings.

By ROD GIPSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


QB Joey Bailey plans to put the ball in the air in an effort to keep pace in the standings.

TAMPA -- Leto coach Andy Martin had seen enough.

By the end of the 2001 season, he knew changes were in order. So out went his wing-T offense and in came a new, pro-style attack he calls "the spread."

It will consist of an I-back, two wide receivers on each side of the line and a lot of the shotgun formation. It also might be the biggest step toward returning the Falcons to the lofty heights they experienced just a few years ago when Martin and company delivered back-to-back playoff appearances and a district title.

Leto was outscored 125-36 during its first four games last season, struggling on both sides of the ball with a thin lineup using two-way players. The Falcons rebounded to take three of their last six games, giving Martin the confidence he needed to employ the offensive overhaul.

"There were times where we just had a shortage of players," said Martin, 19-24 in his five years at Leto. "And it affected us. But with a lot of work and more experienced players and good things in the spring, we saw we have some talent to kind of get back to where we were."

Those good things included Joey Bailey hitting 12 of 17 passes for 120 yards in the spring jamboree.

"We're really encouraged with this offense," Martin said. "We think we have the players to run it and improve this team."

THROUGH THE AIR: Bailey has the size (6 feet 2, 204 pounds) and the experience (a three-year starter). Now the senior quarterback is ready to put those talents together, Martin said. Bailey was 64 of 142 for 905 yards with 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last season and has an experienced group of receivers. Senior Kevin Lin leads the group, while Joe Wilson and Miguel Silva will see plenty of playing time.

"This offense is more pass oriented," Bailey said. "I think we could have the best receiving corps in the county. With this offense, we think we can get down the field in a hurry."

ON THE GROUND: Sophomore running back Jarvis McAllister will be the ball carrier in Martin's offense. Only a sophomore, McAllister (5-10, 180) ran for almost 300 yards and scored two touchdowns as a freshman. Sophomore linemen Phillip Varella and Ivan Nixon lead up front.

"He (McAllister) brings a threat to our offense," Martin said. "His running will allow us to do a lot of things."

DEFENSE: Martin still will have some players pulling double duty, but hopes better depth will provide relief. Varella and Nixon will see time on the line while McAllister will lead the linebackers. Lin and Wilson return to man the corners.

THE BIG GAME: Although they will have played three district games before their Oct. 11 contest at Chamberlain, that matchup will be huge. A win against Chamberlain, last season's Class 5A runner-up, would be monumental.

And if the Falcons get past the Chiefs, the Oct. 25 matchup against Hillsborough could be even bigger.

LETO FALCONS

AT A GLANCE

COACH: Andy Martin (fifth season, 19-24).

ASSISTANTS: Tom Martin, Matt Sparrowhawk, Dale Rude, Don Lamison, George Gomez, Gary Brown and Jose Mesa.

COLORS: Gold, red and white.

STADIUM: Falcon Stadium, 4409 W Sligh Ave.

CLASS: 5A, District 6.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1991, 1993, 1998, 1999.

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Lake Region 41-8, lost to Auburndale 28-0.

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