© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2002
3A-7 ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Wesley Chapel (10-0); 2. Zephyrhills (7-3); 3. Pasco (6-4); 4. Hernando (4-6); 5. Hudson (3-6); 6. Gulf (2-8).
4A-6 ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Land O'Lakes (9-1); 2. Central (6-3); 3. Springstead (7-3); 4. River Ridge (3-7); 5. Ridgewood (1-9); 6. Mitchell (1-9).
PIVOTAL GAME: Central at Springstead, Oct. 4. If the Eagles are, in fact, the team to beat in Hernando County this season, this will be the game that proves it. The Bears held the honor the past few years but lost all of their offensive linemen to graduation and are adjusting to a new coach and a new system. Springstead comes off its first winning season in four years but has questions of its own.
BEST GAME: Wesley Chapel at Land O'Lakes, Nov. 8. What better way to end the season than with a battle between potential unbeatens? The Gators have made five straight postseason appearances, while the Wildcats have won 13 straight regular-season games. Land O'Lakes quarterback Drew Weatherford will put on a show, but Wesley Chapel should win.
BIGGEST BLOWOUT: Mitchell at Wesley Chapel, Oct. 11. There are so many to pick from: Wesley Chapel-Ridgewood, Wesley Chapel-Gulf and Wesley Chapel-Mitchell, to name a few. I'll go with the Mustangs, who fell 58-0 at home last season.
COACH OF THE YEAR: John Castelamare, Wesley Chapel. Does the most with the most.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Drew Weatherford, Land O'Lakes. His favorite target, Chip Whalen, is gone, but that shouldn't stop the junior quarterback from leading Pasco County in passing for a second consecutive season. Now, if Weatherford could just help the Gators (1-10 in the playoffs) to a postseason win. Central's Tim Gaynor is a close second.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Andres Lawson, Hernando. This would have been a tossup between linebackers Lawson and Allen Lamb of Springstead, but Lamb moved to California, leaving only Lawson, whose 96 tackles led the county a year ago. Keep an eye on Eagles linebacker Kurt Carriveau.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Mike Hibbert, Springstead. The junior kicker was Hernando County's fifth-leading scorer last season, connecting on seven field goals and 16 extra points.
SEASON OUTLOOK: Three burning questions:
1. Will this be Springstead's breakthrough year?
If you followed the Eagles the second half last season, it's hard to think otherwise. Springstead did not allow a touchdown in its last five games, shutting out its final three opponents. It sustained huge losses on both sides of the ball, but the defensive philosophy remains unchanged. If it continues to win the small battles up front, Springstead should continue to get better.
2. Will Central be better or worse?
The Bears were successful under former coach Steve Crognale, who left to pursue a master's degree after guiding Central to two district championships and five playoff appearances in seven seasons. But the Bears struggled in the playoffs, and last season fell to New Smyrna Beach 40-6. Appropriately, Central found a replacement in New Smyrna Beach assistant John Wilkinson. The Bears will need time to adjust to Wilkinson's multiple offensive system. But once they do, they could redefine success at Central.
3. Will Hernando improve on its 3-7 season?
Yes, but it's hard to say how much. Injuries had a lot to do with the Leopards' disappointing season, as well as turnovers and poor special teams play. Hernando should be better in all three areas, but that might not result in many more wins on a schedule that includes Springstead, Pasco, Central, Lecanto, Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and Crystal River.