New coach Craig Frederick needs to replace almost all of the players that led the team to three playoff appearances the past four seasons.
By DAWN REISS
Published September 3, 2004
CRYSTAL RIVER - Time is short, too short to tell.
Coach Craig Frederick is still getting first looks and doesn't quite know what will happen.
Just a few positions are set with players who have heart.
They don't have speed, size or strong passing skills, yet.
Crystal River has been known for its 1,000-yard rushers, but this year will be different.
"We don't have the young guns of the past," Frederick says. "Those days are gone."
In 2002, it was Ryan McNally. Last season, it was quarterbackChris Bunch and running back Chianta Smith, who both amassed more than a 1,000 yards of offense while leading Pirates to perfect conference record. Bam Cleveland, who was supposed to be the starting running back this season, dropped out of school last winter.
Now the options are more likely juniors Matt Schrantz and Seth Metz. Though Metz has primarily played at fullback and Schrantz at half, they will switch back and forth, and play at linebacker on defense. Neither has started at these positions. Senior Mike LaCharite, junior William Patterson, a transfer, and junior Joe Bertine are all options.
The program is revamping, redesigning the offense with a few short weeks since Frederick's Aug. 2 start. The pass will set up the run. Learning to be creative is key.
"We've got to pass in order to be effective," Frederick says. "Crystal River has never been in this position, where we don't have any returning running backs."
More than the traditional Wing-T, look for Crystal River to use a multiple set offense - shotgun, 2-back sets, the I and other formations.
How much they pass will depend on how quickly the Pirates can learn.
The defense will stay the simple, the 4-4 Crystal River way.
Frederick has a lot to prove. He replaces Jere DeFoor, who went 33-12 in four seasons. Since 1996, Crystal River has reached the playoffs every season but one. The Pirates are undefeated against county rivals for the past nine years with 16 consecutive wins.
"We're going to do some things different than Crystal River has in the past," Frederick said. "Year in and year out teams know to just jam the line of scrimmage at Crystal River, and get by with it. They aren't going to get by with it anymore."
Crystal River graduated 18 seniors. Only two starters, guard/defensive end Richard Drawdy and Metz, return.
The key will be offensive preparation.
There are quarterback questions. Junior Kyle Daquanna has more natural talent, fluid and calm with an excellent pitcher-built throwing arm. Last season, he started for junior varsity. It's senior Matt Pepito's last chance, after being a backup last season. He's aggressive and stronger, but isn't a shoe-in. Frederick said both will see playing time, even if its not at quarterback. Both can play receiver and Pepito, known more for long-range kicking, has seen time in previous seasons at tight end.
Several are vying for receiver positions, which will see more playing time than in the past.
"Yeah, I've been waiting for a three years," Sam Walker laughed.
Walker looks like he is the frontrunner. At 6-1, he is the second tallest receiver (Charlie Pich is 6-2).
Look for Brett Miller at wingback. Newcomer senior Chris Lavoie, the No. 1 tennis singles player, could start here and at defensive back. Senior Alex D'Agostino, one of the frontrunners before injuring his ankle, could be out for a while.
"I think we'll do better than last year, we have more heart," Miller says.
Expect senior tight end/inside linebacker John Dickey to be an option.
The offensive line is set, anchored by Drawdy, senior tackle Ryan Stephens on the weak side, Dallas Owens at center, and senior guard Michael Schindler and junior tackle James Longfellow on the strong side.
"I think it's going to be a lot better than anybody thinks its going to be," Stephens says. "We're just as good as we've been in the past few years. People don't know that. ... People can say what they want, but we're going to come ready to play."