St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Rebuilding Raiders must grow up fast

A difficult early schedule doesn't give Plant City's young offense much time to learn.

By TERRY JONES

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


A difficult early schedule doesn't give Plant City's young offense much time to learn.

PLANT CITY -- The hardest hit Plant City might have taken last year didn't come during a game. It happened in the spring when coach Cornelius Bobo and the rest of his staff watched the majority of his team walk across a stage.

Graduation hit the Raiders hard. Now Bobo hopes he has enough experienced defensive players to keep the team respectable while the young offense matures.

The Raiders run a T-back set offense, which uses a balanced ground and air attack that requires a good offensive line. Unfortunately, that's the least-experienced part of the team.

The first couple of games will be learning experiences, and that means bad news for Bobo, whose team opens with Armwood followed by Gaither, Riverview and Sarasota Riverview.

THROUGH THE AIR: With junior quarterback Eric Humphreys in the pocket, Bobo believes he has a good throwing team. Humphreys has a strong arm and pinpoint accuracy, fine-tuned by his baseball experience.

A pair of seniors, Cory Wells and Torrance Ruth, will be the primary receivers. Both have soft hands and the ability to find the space in a defense.

ON THE GROUND: Senior scatback Joslin Shaw, a Division I prospect, sets the pace for the running game. Shaw has speed, running the 40 in 4.3 seconds, and can change directions on a dime, Bobo said.

During the summer, Shaw attended football camps at Florida State and the University of Miami.

When he wasn't at camp, he was the first to arrive and last to leave the weight room. Bobo hopes to give the ball to Shaw as often as 35 times a game.

"Joslin is the team leader," Bobo said. "The more we get the ball to him the longer we can control the ball. The big question is the offensive line. They are working hard and will have to step up."

Jaquan Dasher, a 6-1, 255-pound senior, is the center. Another senior, 6-1, 265-pound Trey Warnock, is one of the guards.

At tight end, 6-3, 185-pound junior Charlie Lusk is the starter. Bobo said the offense will become a threat as soon as the offensive line jells. He has confidence in his young players and believes their time will come sooner rather than later.

DEFENSE: Speed and aggression underline the defense and Bobo is pleased with the attitude the players bring into the new season.

"Everyone on the defense can move fast and get to the ball quickly," Bobo said. "They make a lot of gang tackles and work and attack as a unit."

In the secondary are seniors Levon Freeman and Brian Riley. Bobo said both are good hitters and compared Riley's style to that of Buccaneer John Lynch.

Tavaris Clark leads the linebackers. The 6-2, 190-pound senior is described by Bobo as aggressive and a good pass defender.

THE BIG GAME: Lakeland, Oct. 17. Because of the fierce competition, Bobo said every district game is big. The Raiders are in the same district with Riverview, Durant, East Bay, Haines City and Lakeland. But it's the Dreadnaughts who stand out. "Lakeland seems to always be in the state championship picture and it has won several titles," Bobo said.

"We have several big games, but we find out what kind of team we have when we play Lakeland."

PLANT CITY RAIDERS

AT A GLANCE

COACH: Cornelius Bobo (second season, 2-8).

ASSISTANTS: Timothy Knighten, Kent Underwood, James Lewis, Shane Strawn, Clarence Higdon, Byron Williams, Greg Ruth and Henri Foster.

COLORS: Aqua, orange and white.

STADIUM: Raider Stadium, One Raider Place.

CLASS: 5A, District 5.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1975, 1998, 1999.

LAST APPEARANCE: Beat Venice 35-28, lost to Lakeland 58-6.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.