TAMPA - The future of Tampa Catholic football is bright.
It's as vivid as the colors on the banner that hangs from one of the school's buildings or the artist's drawings that catch one's attention at the main office entrance. Both depict the new football stadium and athletic facility approved in December 2003 that will someday be the sparkling home of Tampa Catholic athletics.
The present of Crusader football, however, is dreary.
Tampa Catholic is coming off of consecutive 2-8 seasons. This year, the Crusaders play the same schedule, making a third straight 2-8 season a possibility. Rival Jesuit has gotten the better of the past four meetings, and TC had to hang on for a seven-point victory against first-year Newsome. Half of the Crusaders' wins the past two seasons came against Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic.
Most of this year's squad hasn't seen much of that losing because 70 percent of them are sophomores.
The last time the Crusaders went to the playoffs, the team's seven seniors were just starting high school.
"Very gradually, the attitude is becoming better," coach Jim Guderian said. "But there's a ways to go before we're competitive week in and week out."
THROUGH THE AIR: Mike DeMarinis, who graduated, will not be easy to replace. Joey Lauteeria gets first crack at the quarterback job. He'll throw to junior Joey Hernandez. One of the team's best athletes, Hernandez broke through with a big game last year against Newsome. He caught two touchdowns and had two interceptions, the second ending the Wolves' final drive, to clinch his team's 27-20 victory.
ON THE GROUND: Senior tailback Raj Arasu typifies his team. The Crusaders' leader is tough, but not very big at 5 feet 9, 152 pounds. Fullback Ricky Phelps is cut from the same mold. The 5-10, 190-pound senior will help open holes for Arasu, then flip to defense and play end.
The team used more option last year, but Guderian didn't think his team had the speed to make it work. Now with a zone blocking scheme, the emphasis will be on Arasu and the other backs to find holes rather than relying on team speed.
DEFENSE: Guderian's refrain throughout his first three seasons as coach is a lack of size. This year's team again will be small, but senior Jorge Gonzalez (6-3, 293) can match up against anyone. He, like most of the Crusaders, will be counted on for contributions on both sides of the ball.
"We're thin on both sides of the line, and we don't have very many big guys," Guderian said. "That situation means we have to go both ways all the time."