Coach John Wilkinson has integrated his methods into his team, which seeks its first playoff victory.
By FRANK PASTOR
Published September 3, 2004
BROOKSVILLE - One of Central coach John Wilkinson's biggest challenges the past two seasons has been convincing his players that district games against out-of-county schools mean more than those against rivals such as Hernando.
True, the Bears don't bump into those players in the offseason, and bragging rights aren't involved.
But only district victories can put Central in the playoffs, where it has never won a game.
"We want to make history, and that's what we tell the kids," Wilkinson said. "We want to do something that this school has never done before. That's my only goal, and so far I haven't reached my goal."
Central has a chance this season, if only because Wilkinson's most-experienced players enter their third year in his system. After a year or two to adjust, they know what to expect from the former Merritt Island and New Smyrna Beach assistant: a pronounced emphasis on district competition and belief that a passing game is essential to winning at the highest level.
Most important, they believe in his philosophy.
"I think the kids that are here have been in the system, they know it can work, and they buy into it 100 percent," Wilkinson said.
An emphasis on passing might be necessary, considering Central returns all of its skill players but only one starting lineman from last season's 4-6 squad.
Unlike past seasons, when they worked out of a hybrid wing-T, the Bears will try to spread defenses with a variety of formations.
"If you see us line up in the power-I, somebody needs to come snatch me off the sidelines," Wilkinson said.
Central should have the cast to pull it off. Quarterback Shane Collard, tailback Anthony Gaynor, fullback Gary Owen and wide receivers Jeremy Flowers and James Smith return.
After Collard broke his left arm in an opening loss to Citrus last season, Flowers took over at quarterback. Collard returned for the final two games and caught five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in a 20-17, season-ending win over Hernando.
Back at receiver for the spring game, Flowers caught four passes for 110 yards and a touchdown from Collard and rushed for a touchdown in a 24-7 win over Citrus.
"Right now, they're interchangeable at quarterback," Wilkinson said. "Jeremy got all the experience from last year, and I think he still would like to play a little bit. I think you might see us switch them up."
With DuJuan Harris, Bryan Nutter, Daniel Harris and Tim Plumadore, Central has more depth at running back and receiver than at any time under Wilkinson.
Only center Andy Leavine (6 feet 5, 295 pounds) returns along an offensive line comprised of two seniors (quick tackle Abid ElMargie and strong tackle Casey Cane), three juniors (Leavine, strong tackle Derek Jacobs and quick guard Daniel Bourguignon) and a sophomore (strong guard Aaron Bourguignon, Daniel's cousin).
Gaynor, Harris and Owen anchor the defense. Gaynor, younger brother of former star running back Tim Gaynor, switches from cornerback to outside linebacker. Harris moves to inside linebacker to replace Times 2003 All-Citrus/Hernando defensive player of the year Darnell Craig.
Aside from the line, the biggest area of concern is kicking. First-team all-state kicker Mike Hibbert signed with West Virginia Wesleyan, leaving placekicking duties to first-year Steven Bock. Bock made all three of his extra points and one field goal during the spring game, but didn't face a rush.
"Any time you've got a guy who hasn't done it live in a real game, I think that's definitely a question mark," Wilkinson said.