Wildcats, Tomlin not done making progressBy GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 15, 2002
WESLEY CHAPEL -- It's like an Elvis impersonator getting to do his best "Thank you. Thank you very much," sideburns and rhinestones and all, in the middle of Graceland with everyone watching.
For four years, Tyrone Tomlin has worn No.9 because he idolized former Florida State star Peter Warrick. Tonight, in what could be his final high school game, he can tear up Warrick's old stomping grounds.
Tomlin leads Wesley Chapel to Bradenton Southeast for a first-round playoff game, typifying a senior class that progressed from one victory to back-to-back postseason appearances. At Kiker Memorial Stadium, Tomlin can help make history with the program's first playoff victory.
Last week against Land O'Lakes, Tomlin took the opening kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown and added a scoring run in the second quarter. After Land O'Lakes scored with 51 seconds left to take the lead, the Wildcats tried to get him the ball on the ensuing kickoff. But the Gators intercepted the lateral. "We've got to play better as a team, but this is going to be tough," said Tomlin, who has 1,391 yards and 21 touchdowns. A year ago, Wesley Chapel was undefeated entering the playoffs, but Tomlin was injured in a car crash days before the playoffs and wasn't himself in a loss to Wauchula Hardee. This time, he's healthy and eager to take the Wildcats to the next level.
"If I could turn back the hands of time ... I'd play better than what I did," Tomlin said. "I was playing scared, and that's not like me."
Tomlin has been stellar in the past two seasons, but is just as helpful as the threat he poses. If Southeast worries he's the second coming of Warrick, it will focus enough of its defense on him. "That opens everything up for everything else," Tomlin said. "Land O'Lakes keyed on me, and Chris (Roberts) broke plays. Junior (Roberts) broke plays. (Jon) Muhammad, they all stepped up." The Wildcats also need Tomlin on defense to stop big plays, including those of quarterback Tyrance Griggs, who also wears Warrick's No.9. Only one No.9 will emulate Warrick, who opened the playoffs his senior year at home and led his team to a state title. "We think we can represent ourselves well," Wildcats coach John Castelamare said. "There are six (county) teams going to the playoffs, and probably one or two of us is probably picked to win. After that, it's a dogfight. You win, you keep going. You lose, that's it."
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