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Small Mustangs must rely on experience

Veterans with speed will carry the team's playoff hopes.

By JOHN C. COTEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002


Veterans with speed will carry the team's playoff hopes.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Northside Christian lost its starting running backs to graduation and the incumbent via transfer to rival Shorecrest, but Bob Dare sees his Mustangs where they were last year: in the thick of the district race.

After losing to district champ Keswick Christian by one point and to runner-up Admiral Farragut by a touchdown, the Mustangs had a chance to make the playoffs in a three-way tiebreaker, which the Blue Jackets won after Northside eliminated Shorecrest.

"It was pretty equal last year," Dare said. "This year we're planning on fighting for something there again."

The Mustangs lost only four seniors, so experience should not be a problem. Size, however, could be as the Mustangs field another small group, which they hope to offset with a finesse spread offense.

THROUGH THE AIR: Senior David Dare, the coach's son, returns. Dare was the starter last year until an injury in the kickoff classic slowed him. He broke his collarbone twice, but is healthy and ready to run the run-and-shoot.

His brother, sophomore Bobby, and freshman Greg Durspeck are backups.

There are no seniors at wide receiver that Northside will rely on, but team MVP P.K. Keller heads an experienced group. Keller does a little of everything, including punting and returning kicks. With Josh Franklin, he will play outside receiver.

Inside receivers are junior Eric Anderson and Tim Devlin, who also will run the ball.

ON THE GROUND: Senior Derek Erskin is the starting tailback, his first year carrying the ball after blocking for backs as an offensive lineman. Only 5 feet 8 and 172 pounds, Erskin is one of the fastest on the team, timed in the 40 at 4.7 seconds. Junior Ricky Quail also will get substantial carries.

"We lost our two running backs, so those are the big holes for us to fill," Dare said.

Three seniors -- Jason Kruck (5-8, 178), Brian Rose (5-11, 167) and Jared Cole (5-8, 158) -- and brothers Andrew and Tim Myers make up a small but tough offensive line.

DEFENSE: With a roster of 39 to split between varsity and junior varsity, many are two-way players. Expect some of the offensive linemen, as well as Erskin, to see time on the defensive line. Cole and Kruck will be linebackers. Keller, Franklin and David Dare will play in the defensive backfield, though Bobby Dare is looking to keep his quarterback off the field on defense.

JUST FOR KICKS: Keller will handle punting and Matt Johnson takes over at placekicker.

NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN

AT A GLANCE

COACH: Bob Dare (14th season, 78-63).

ASSISTANTS: Mark Ackerman, Darrell Don, Chris Wilmington and David Veit.

COLORS: Royal blue and white.

STADIUM: Brandes-Russell Field, 7777 62nd Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

CLASS: A, District 8.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: 1986, 1989, 1996, 1997.

LAST APPEARANCE: Lost to Fort Meade 39-20.

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