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New Chiefs, same dreams

Chamberlain has 16 new starters who plan to defend their district title and return to the playoffs.

By MIKE READLING, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


Chamberlain has 16 new starters who plan to defend their district title and return to the playoffs.

TAMPA -- It has been more than eight months since Chamberlain last played a football game. A long, hard eight months.

Graduation came and went, taking 16 starters. Injuries struck. Weak spots in the lineup flared up.

The only thing that hasn't changed since Chamberlain's Dec. 7 loss to Naples is the excitement that surrounded the Chiefs' first trip to the state final. And that's what matters most as Chamberlain travels to East Bay tonight at 7:30 to begin defense of its Class 5A, District 6 crown and start what it hopes is another successful playoff run.

It's not going to be easy.

"Some of these guys think they're riding on last year's laurels," said coach Billy Turner, who enters the game one win shy of 200 for his career. "But this is not last year's team."

It might not be last year's team, but the 2002 Chiefs are still a pretty good squad.

Against Jefferson in the preseason classic, the Chiefs moved the ball well, led by junior quarterback Sidney Bryant, wide receivers Greg Lee and Brandon Williams, and running back Mike Ross.

On their first drive of the game, the Chiefs went 80 yards against the Dragons' vaunted defense, capping it off with a 23-yard pass from Bryant to Williams in the corner of the end zone. The most impressive part of the play was Bryant's ability to roll right and fire a line drive down the sideline while on the run.

"We feel really excited about this year," Bryant said. "We did lose a lot, but we regrouped. This should be a big test for us."

Despite the calls Turner still gets for radio interviews and the attention the Chiefs still receive in the media, Bryant said the players have put last season out of their minds.

"A lot of people still talk about it and what it was like," Bryant said. "But we don't even think about it anymore. We're just ready to get playing. To me, it's just another football game."

The East Bay game means a lot more than just a chance for Chamberlain to get back on the field. The Indians beat Chamberlain last year 14-9 after blocking two punts in the fourth quarter.

Then there's the matter of getting Turner that milestone win.

"We've really talked about getting that win for him," senior defensive back Joe Clermond said. "We want to win it for him."

Turner said he is not worried about win No. 200, calling it the "farthest thing from my mind." He said it is a mark he never really expected -- or wanted -- to reach.

In fact, about five years ago, Turner's son, Brian, told him he had to stick around until he got to No. 200. The elder Turner rankled at the thought.

"I told him it was ridiculous. I'm not going to be coaching when I'm 65 years old," said Turner, who turns 65 in November. "I don't see it as that big of a deal. One hundred wins is a milestone. After that you're just senile and been coaching for too long."

BILLY TURNER'S ROAD TO 200

Chamberlain coach Billy Turner will try for career win No. 200 tonight against East Bay. Below are some highlights from his 31 years on the sidelines at Hillsborough and Chamberlain.

SEPT. 20, 1968: Win No. 1. Junior Rip Bailey completed 14 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns as Hillsborough beat Brandon 33-7 in front of 5,550 fans at Gaither Field. Danny Beltram caught two of those touchdowns, scoring on passes of 25 and 52 yards. Hillsborough had 33 points at halftime and Brandon, which had one first down and 25 total yards in the first half, didn't score until the third quarter.

NOV. 16, 1978: Win No. 50. Hillsborough beat Tampa Catholic 41-20 in Turner's final game as Terriers head coach. Willie Humphrey scored on a 56-yard run and Don Lott added a 68-yard punt return and touchdown runs of 8 and 16 yards before leaving late in the first half with an injured ankle. Lott still managed to secure the county scoring title with 79 points.

NOV. 14, 1986: Win No. 100. Thanks to Dyron Robinson, the Chiefs defense scored twice in the second half to post an 18-14 come-from-behind win over Gaither. Robinson returned a Terry Jordan fumble 32 yards for a score, then picked up another Jordan fumble, flipped the ball to Ken Thomas and watched as he ran 50 yards for the score. In true "Billy Ball" style, the Chamberlain offensive line lined up on the left side of center, catching Gaither off guard and setting up a 46-yard Lloyd Black run.

SEPT. 23, 1994: Win No. 150. Eugene McCaslin had 132 yards rushing and 92 receiving and scored three touchdowns as Chamberlain beat King 32-7. Included in McCaslin's big night was a 78-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Brown. Tony Nelson, who was filling in at fullback, ran for 157 yards and scored twice.

-- Compiled by Mike Readling.

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