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Halfway there

CENTRAL (2-3): The Bears are working to grasp first-year coach John Wilkinson's scheme.

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 6, 2002

OFFENSE: Central has diversified somewhat with an increased attempt to pass, but the attack succeeds or fails based on its rushing.

Senior fullback Tim Gaynor has been good (712 yards and eight touchdowns) but not exceptional, partly because his new line has been erratic and partly because he broke a bone in his hand the second game of the season.

Senior fullback Steve Martin (155 yards, three touchdowns) has been the catalyst of a power-run scheme, and Shawn Dunker has shown signs of contributing after appearing baffled the first few games.

The Gaynor-Gaynor backfield (with Tim's younger brother, Anthony) has been a non-factor as the sophomore first was ineffective, then missed two games with a disciplinary suspension.

Quarterback Joe Brazeau (221 yards, one touchdown) has five interceptions because of poor decision-making. The Bears have a collection of athletic receivers, including Adrian Chapman, and the presence of Tampa Bay Storm wideout Lawrence Samuels on the coaching staff helps the recruitment of potential receivers within the school.

Central has increased its points total each week but does not have the athletes (or the understanding) to pull off parts of coach John Wilkinson's scheme right now.

DEFENSE: Central is slow, often does not tackle well, and has taken silly penalties that have cost games. A roughing-the-kicker call on a field-goal try led to a momentum-swinging touchdown in a loss to Citrus.

The line has been pushed around at times, but Richie DelValle and surprise Ermine Lewis (six sacks against River Ridge) help form a competitive linebacker group. The Bears are adapting to a new technique, away from their former blitzing style, and showing some signs of cohesion.

OVERALL: Central is a work in progress. Some of the wrinkles installed by its first-year head coach have been thisclose to working if not for a mental or physical error.

Still, the Bears have been at their best playing power football with Tim Gaynor and Martin in the game.

The defense must defend the perimeter better or quick teams (such as Hernando, which amassed 290 rushing yards against Central) will abuse the Bears with tosses and sweeps.

STANDOUT PLAYER: Expectations were high for Gaynor, who was among the state's top returning backs. He has gained a respectable amount of yards because of a heavy workload (128 carries), but Gaynor clearly misses his offensive line from last year.

PLAYOFF PROSPECTS: Not as bad as the record would indicate.

The Bears are 2-0 in Class 4A, District 6 with games remaining against hapless Mitchell (2-3) and co-district leaders Land O'Lakes (5-0) and Ridgewood (3-2).

A win over Land O'Lakes seems unlikely, but knocking off the Rams could sneak Central in as the 4A-6 runner-up. Beating Ridgewood would not be such a coup. The Rams' victories have come against Pasco County weaklings Hudson, Gulf and Mitchell.

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