tampabay.com

Pinellas players of the week

By BOB PUTNAM
Published August 31, 2005


OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DEXTER McCLUSTER, LARGO

With his quick burst, exceptional vision, unearthly cutback ability and aptitude for juking and shedding tacklers, McCluster strikes fear into the hearts of defenders every time he touches the ball.

Last week, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound senior ran circles around Clearwater with his electrifying style. He finished with 214 yards on 12 carries and had three touchdowns. He also scored on a 75-yard kickoff return following a safety. His numbers were more impressive considering he was held out of the fourth quarter.

"Dexter's got the ability to turn a bad play into a good one," coach Rick Rodriguez said. "On the kickoff return, we didn't make one block. He did all that on his own."

Last year, McCluster left numerous games with injuries and cramps. His season ended with a broken ankle in the last game and he spent the past six months recovering.

He hopes to put questions about his durability behind him after a smashing debut in which he showed off his speed with touchdown runs of 51 and 98 yards.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: DUSTIN ZITZMANN, DIXIE HOLLINS

The Rebels' defensive schemes are designed around the 6-foot, 200-pound Zitzmann, whose range, nose for the ball and ferocious tackling style are unsurpassed. Last week's numbers support this assertion.

The senior linebacker had 13 tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Two of those turnovers resulted in touchdowns to help Dixie Hollins beat Palm Harbor University 35-10.

Zitzmann picked up one of the Hurricanes' four fumbles and returned it 80 yards for one score. He also intercepted a high-flying deflection in the fourth quarter and returned it 18 yards for a TD.

"I guess I've just been at the right place at the right time," Zitzmann said. "I just try to stick my head in there and make a play. I never want to give up on making a play."

Last year, Zitzmann continued the Rebels' three-year streak of producing first-team, all-county linebackers. He has 227 tackles, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in his career.

Though he has some impressive stats, Zitzmann doesn't gloat often. He's an unabashed perfectionist who frets over the little things.

"I don't think I'm ever satisfied with my performance," Zitzmann said. "I fumbled twice on offense and missed a few tackles, so I needed to put up those to make up for that."