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One loss motivates Tigers to improve

Nothing short of reaching at least the Class 3A state semifinals will satisfy senior running back Aaron Fryer and his Jesuit teammates.

By EMILY NIPPS, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


Nothing short of reaching at least the Class 3A state semifinals will satisfy senior running back Aaron Fryer and his Jesuit teammates.

TAMPA -- A familiar sight on the Jesuit field: Aaron Fryer carrying the ball and rumbling through linebackers.

At practice, he vows to finish what the Tigers started. They had a perfect season last year until their region final loss to Lake Wales.

This year, he said, will be different.

And Fryer is the same. He lowers his head, charges forward and smashes through pad-wearing obstacles. Later, he pulls his helmet off and grins like a baby, his braces betraying his ferocious demeanor.

"This team, I believe, is just as good as last year's undefeated team," Fryer said. "Last year, players nobody knew about could have started at just about any other school."

Fryer hopes to lead these players into the Class 3A state semifinal, a level the Tigers haven't reached since 1992.

Senior running back/defensive back Shane Robinson can't wait to get back on the field and prove the Tigers can go all the way.

"Our last game we played was our worst," Robinson said. "We made a couple of mistakes that we normally wouldn't make. I think we're a more experienced team because of it."

Most of the Tigers worked out together during the summer, Robinson said, and he believes their togetherness and dedication will come through on the field.

"Everyone's goal is to play a flawless game every time," he said. "If we do that, there's no reason why we shouldn't be undefeated for the entire season."

THROUGH THE AIR: The running game always has been a staple of Jesuit's offense, and this year is no different. But Anthony Severino is prepared to take on a bigger role during his senior season, and coach Dominick Ciao feels like Severino can do anything asked of him.

ON THE GROUND: Fryer, one of Florida's top running backs, might give the Tigers the edge they need to break through the region playoffs. Robinson came on strong late last season, and he'll be among the biggest assets.

DEFENSE: Jesuit is known for its defense, and even though the Tigers lost a few key backs, they should still be the pride of the team. The biggest improvement the Tigers hope to make is to work on speed, somewhat of a weakness last year. Safety Dylan McCrory and defensive backs Carlos Gomez and Eric Ballotta will be mainstays, as will two-way players Robinson and Corey Anderson.

THE BIG GAME: Bradenton Southeast, Sept. 20.

The Tigers have taken their share of poundings from the Seminoles over the years, but last year wasn't one of them. Last season, the Tigers beat Southeast at Southeast -- a shock to the Seminoles. The Seminoles will be looking for revenge, but they'll be sorry to see Fryer back on the field. He sealed last season's 23-14 victory with two touchdown runs.

JESUIT TIGERS

AT A GLANCE

COACH: Dominick Ciao (16th season, 121-59).

COLORS: Blue and white.

STADIUM: Corral Stadium, 4701 N Himes Ave.

CLASS: 3A, District 8.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1967, 1968, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1982, 1991, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001.

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Zephyrhills 34-14, beat Bartow 44-26, lost to Lake Wales 26-6.

STATE TITLE: 1968 (Class A).

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